New research shows Canada’s men facing mental health issues

Feb 11, 2021

According to a recent opinion article by Dr. Rob Whitley, an associate professor of psychiatry at McGill University and a research scientist at the Douglas Research Centre, a growing body of research suggests many Canadian men and boys struggle with mental health issues, indicating the need for a national response.

Recent survey results demonstrate that Canadian men are approximately three times more likely to suffer from addiction and substance abuse issues related to opioids, alcohol and cannabis compared to Canadian women. Moreover, a recent report released by the British Columbia Coroners Service shows that males have accounted for 81% of drug overdose deaths in that province in 2020. Data reported by Statistics Canada has also revealed that men account for more than 75% of suicides in Canada, with approximately 50 men per week dying by suicide.

Recent research shows that factors such as educational drop-out, unemployment and loneliness could act as strong determinants of mental health issues, including suicide and addiction. In addition, these risk factors disproportionately affect men and boys compared to women. Recent data from Statistics Canada indicates that one in four boys do not graduate from high school on time, which is a rate that is significantly higher compared to girls. Other data shows that nearly 9% of men aged 25 to 34 years did not graduate from high school, which is almost double the rate of women of similar age.

According to Dr. Whitley, additional factors such as a higher unemployment rate for men aged 25-29 years who are actively seeking work (two times compared to similarly aged women), as well as a significant decline in traditional blue-collar industries such as manufacturing, fisheries, and the oil and gas sector, could also contribute to risk factors for men’s declining mental health.

Recent surveys results also demonstrate high rates of loneliness in working-age men. Specifically, one survey found that 63% of Canadian men aged 18-34 years experienced considerable loneliness and isolation, compared to 53% of similarly aged women. These results correspond to recent findings of a study carried out in the U.S., where one in three young men said they ‘always or often felt lonely,’ and while more than a quarter said they had no close friends.

Finally, studies also show that men also under-utilize mental health services, with women being almost three times more likely to seek professional help through these services compared to men.

Dr. Whitley concludes that based on this evidence, there is an urgent need to create a parliamentary inquiry in Canada to discuss the current status of men’s mental health and well-being. Such an inquiry could include a detailed evaluation of existing policies and programs in education, employment and health care which could contribute to mental health difficulties.