By Monica Nunes, CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre

A new Statistics Canada report provides some highlights on the state of mental health among Canadians. The report called Positive Mental Health and Mental Illness is based on data from the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey. Statistics Canada was interested in measuring the mental health of Canadians as a positive concept where mental health is understood as feeling good and functioning well in life.

To determine positive mental health among Canadians, Statistics Canada used the complete mental health model which combines categories of mental health (flourishing, languishing or moderate mental health) with the absence or presence of six mental disorders (depression; bipolar disorder; generalized anxiety disorder; alcohol, cannabis and other drug dependence). Flourishing, languishing or moderate mental are assessed using 14 questions that looks at emotional, social and psychological well-being.

Using the complete mental health model, Statistics Canada identified that 77% have complete mental health meaning that they are flourishing and do not identify as having one of the six mental disorders asked about in the survey. It's interesting to note that the figure for complete mental health is notably higher than in other countries. The report's authors acknowledge that more research is necessary to explain why Canadians are more likely to report complete mental health than other countries. The reasons may relate to demographic and cultural factors or simply differences in how the survey was conducted.

And, while many readers of the report might focus on the prevalence of mental health among Canadians in this report, another significant outcome of the survey is the spotlight it places on the social determinants of health. Findings from the study show that mental health is associated with several social determinants including education, income and physical health. The study finds that those with complete mental health were more likely to be people with a partner (an indicator of social support), living in an urban environment, and had strong spiritual health. Canadians in the lowest household income quintile, without a post-secondary education, without a job or ability to work were less likely to report complete mental health. Knowing about the association of these determinants with mental health can help in identifying how we plan programs and policies to promote mental health.

Read the report here. What findings stand out for you?