Vital Signs 2018

Mental Health in Hamilton

Mental health
Perceived mental health, ages 12 and over

In 2015-2016, 70% of Hamiltonians ages 12 and over reported very good or excellent mental health, similar to the of 75% rate in 2007-2008.  These percentages are similar to provincial averages over the same time frame. Hamiltonians ages 18-34 had the highest percentage at 76.4%, while 50-64 year olds had the lowest percentage at 62.3%.  Men between the ages of 50-64 had the lowest percentage of any age-gender group, with only 55.5% reporting excellent or very good mental health.

Just over 6% of Hamiltonians (more than 33,000) reported fair or poor mental health in 2015-2016, similar to 5% in 2007-2008, and similar to provincial averages.  Hamiltonians ages 50-64 were twice as likely (12%) as the overall population to report fair or poor mental health at 12%. Women were slightly more likely to report fair or poor mental health than men:  7.2% compared to 5.4%.

Mental health
Perceived life stress, ages 15 and over

In 2015-2016, more than one in five Hamiltonians (22.1%) ages 15 and over, reported “quite a lot” of life stress in the past year.  This rate was similar to the provincial average of 22.0%, and has remained relatively unchanged over the past decade. Reports of high life stress varied widely by age group:  from 10.6% for 12-17 year olds to 30.8% for 50-64 year olds.

Age group
Self-reported mental health
good or excellent
Perceived life stress
quite a lot
65 and over

Source: Statistics Canada, Table 13-10-0452-01. Table 13-10-0013-01. Accessed August 2019.

Mental health
Percent of population, ages 12 and over, reporting diagnosis of a mood disorder

In 2015-2016, over 11% of Hamiltonians reported being diagnosed by a health professional with a mood disorder (includes depression, bipolar disorder, mania, or dysthymia).  This rate was higher than the provincial rate of 8.7%, and has increased slightly over the past decade from 9.1%. Women (13.2%) were more likely to report a diagnosis of a mood disorder than men (9.2%).   Women between the ages of 50-64 had the highest percentage of any age group at 17.5%.

Mental health
Children’s mental health – emotional maturity

The Early Development Instrument (EDI) is a government survey that measures developmental health, including emotional maturity, for all senior kindergarten students in Ontario. Emotional maturity includes pro-social behaviour, anxiety and fearfulness, aggression, hyperactivity and inattentiveness.

Overall, in Hamilton in 2018, the percentage of senior kindergarten students who were observed vulnerable on emotional maturity was 12.3%, unchanged from 2015, but up sharply from 9.4% in 2010. 

Mental health
Self-reported mental health, youth and young adult

A recent report by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health looked at regional data for high school students (Hamilton is included with Niagara, Brant, Haldimand, and Waterloo-Wellington) and found that 27% of students, Grades 9-12, reported poor mental health.  This rate was not significantly higher than the rate for Ontario (21.5%).  The percentage of Ontario students reporting poor mental health has increased substantially since 2007, when the percentages were between 11-13%.  The same 2017 survey found that 16% of students, Grades 9-12, reported seriously considering suicide in the past year.  

A recent report by McMaster researchers, Jeff Martin and Wayne Lewchuk, that focused on Hamilton millennials (born between 1982 and 1997) found that more than one in four reported their mental health was fair or poor, and only 10% rated their mental health as excellent.  Their research demonstrated a strong link between millennials’ mental health and the predictability of work and amount of income.  Millennials who had precarious work were three times more likely to report fair/poor mental health than those with secure employment (39.3% compared to 13%).  Those with annual incomes less than $40,000 were more than twice as likely to report fair/poor mental health than those with annual incomes over $80,000 (38.1% compared to 16.4%).[1]

Mental health
Self-reported happiness, Two-Spirit and LGBTIQ+ community

A Hamilton-based research partnership between McMaster University, The AIDS Network, and researchers who are Two-Spirit and LGBTIQ+, reported that mental health and well-being vary greatly among members of the Two-Spirit and LGBTIQ+ community. Results of an in-depth survey of almost 1,000 community members found 44% of respondents said their happiness level was good or great. People who identified as lesbian or gay were the most likely to respond good or great (both over 50%), while at 25%, people who identified as transgender were the least likely to respond this way.[2]

Mental health
Hospital visits due to mental health

In 2017 in Hamilton, there were 2,753 hospitalizations due to mental health and psychiatric issues, the fourth leading cause of all hospitalizations (behind injuries, chronic disease, and infectious disease).  Since 2011, hospitalizations for most mental health disorders have been rising. The rate for people over 12 with mood disorders has risen from 161 per 100,000 people to 198 per 100,000 people, an increase of 23%.  

In recent years, there has been an especially sharp increase in mood and/or anxiety disorders among children and youth. Hospitalization rates for children and youth with a mood disorder increased to 222 per 100,000 people in 2015 from 95 per 100,000 in 2010, an increase of 134%.  For children and youth with anxiety-related disorders, hospitalizations have risen to 187 per 100,000 people in 2015 from 20 per 100,000 in 2010, an eightfold increase.

Mental Health
Emergency room visits for self-harm

The rate of emergency room visits for self-harm[3] increased to 150 per 100,000 people in 2017 from 118 per 100,000 people in 2010.  Females under age 20 have the highest rates of all age groups with a rate of 410 per 100,000 – more than three times the general population – and an increase since 2014 when the rate was 321 per 100,000.  A recent study in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry found a similar increase across Ontario:  among 13-17 year olds, emergency room visits for self harm more than doubled from 2009 to 2017.  Similarly, ER visits for mental health concerns for teens increased by 78% over the same time period.

Mental health
Provincial data – Children’s Mental Health Ontario

Children’s Mental Health Ontario collects data from researchers across the province on the mental health and well-being of children and youth.  While this information is not Hamilton-specific, it is included for context and additional information.

[1] Self-harm is when a person deliberately inflicts pain or damage to their own body by any method; it may coincide with an attempt to take one’s own life.

[2] Mills et al. (2019). Mapping the void: Two-Spirit and LGBTIQ+ experiences in Hamilton.

[3] Martin and Lewchuk (2017).  The Generation Effect: Millennials, employment precarity and the 21st century workplace.