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Chronic Dis Can. 2010 Jun;30(3):84-94.

A descriptive study of the prevalence of psychological distress and mental disorders in the Canadian population: comparison between low-income and non-low-income populations.

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Department of Psychiatry, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.



This descriptive study compares rates of high psychological distress and mental disorders between low-income and non-low-income populations in Canada.


Data were collected through the Canadian Community Health Survey - Mental Health and Well-being (CCHS 1.2), which surveyed 36 984 Canadians aged 15 or over; 17.9% (n = 6620) was classified within the low-income population using the Low Income Measure. The K-10 was used to measure psychological distress and the CIDI for assessing mental disorders.


One out of 5 Canadians reported high psychological distress, and 1 out of 10 reported at least one of the five mental disorders surveyed or substance abuse. Women, single, separated or divorced respondents, non-immigrants and Aboriginal Canadians were more likely to report suffering from psychological distress or from mental disorders and substance abuse. Rates of reported psychological distress and of mental disorders and substance abuse were much higher in low-income populations, and these differences were statistically consistent in most of the sociodemographic strata.


This study helps determine the vulnerable groups in mental health for which prevention and promotion programs could be designed.

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