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Study: The impact of mental health problems on family members, 2012

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Released: 2015-10-07

In 2012, approximately 11 million Canadians (38%) aged 15 and older reported having one or more immediate or extended family members with a mental health problem, that is, problems with their emotions, mental health, or use of alcohol or drugs.

Those with one or more family members with a mental health problem more often reported significantly higher rates of daily stress and of having their own symptoms of a mental or substance disorder in the past 12 months compared with those who had no family members with a mental health problem.

Chart 1  Chart 1 : Selected characteristics of Canadians aged 15 or older, by number of family members with a mental health problem, 2012
Selected characteristics of Canadians aged 15 or older, by number of family members with a mental health problem, 2012 

Among people who had at least one family member with a mental health problem, just over one-third (35%) perceived that their lives have been affected because of the family member problem and almost three-quarters (71%) of these people reported providing care to their family member. This was most often in the form of emotional support (27%) such as keeping a family member company; practical support (8%) such as helping with paperwork or getting around; or both emotional and practical support (28%).

  Note to readers

This release presents data from the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey–Mental Health. This cross-sectional survey collected information about: mental health status; access to, and perceived need for formal and informal mental health services and supports; functioning and disability; and factors determining health status.

About 25,100 Canadians aged 15 years and over living in the provinces were interviewed for the survey from January to December 2012. Persons living on reserves and other Aboriginal settlements, full-time members of the Canadian Forces and the institutionalized population were excluded. Altogether, these exclusions represented about 3% of the target population.


Selected mental or substance use disorder (12-month): respondents who reported having experienced symptoms themselves consistent with at least one of the six disorders (major depressive episode, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and abuse of or dependence on alcohol, cannabis or other drugs) measured in the survey, in the previous 12 months. The survey measured the disorders in accordance with the World Health Organization - Composite International Diagnostic Interview 3.0, which classifies respondents, according to selected mental or substance use disorders on the basis of their reported symptoms.

Community belonging (strong): respondents who reported that they felt a "very strong" or a "somewhat strong" sense of belonging to their local community.

Family member: included both immediate and extended family members, such as a spouse or partner, children, parents, parents-in-law, grandparents, brothers and sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces or nephews.

Family member with a mental health problem: respondents who reported they had a family member who had problems with their emotions, mental health, or use of alcohol or drugs. This includes respondents with a family member who experienced symptoms of at least one of the selected disorders (major depressive episode, generalized anxiety, bipolar disorder, alcohol, cannabis or other drug abuse or dependence) as well as those with generic, non-symptom based problems with their emotions.

Financial difficulty: respondents who reported that, given their current household income, they had difficulty with basic expenses such as food, shelter and clothing.

Life satisfaction (high) was based on a scale that measured the respondent's responses to the question "How do you feel about your life as a whole right now?" Those who were categorized as "very satisfied" or "satisfied" (versus "neutral," "dissatisfied" or "very dissatisfied") were considered to have "high" life satisfaction.

Stress (high): respondents who reported that most of their days were "quite a bit" or "extremely" stressful (versus "a bit," "not very," or "not at all" stressful).


The article "The impact of mental health problems on family members" in Health at a Glance (Catalogue number82-624-X) is now available from the Browse by key resource module of our website under Publications.

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