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One in Four on Disability Has Mental Disorder

Editor's Note: Editor's Note: This article is reprinted, with permission of CanWest News, from the Ottawa Citizen, November 19, 2002.

Mental disorders have become a leading cause of disability among workers, according to a federal government study.

They account for nearly one in four persons now receiving a public disability pension, double the proportion only 10 years ago. And among younger workers, mental disorders are now the predominant cause of disability, says the study by the Office of the Chief Actuary.

Mental disorders accounted for 23 percent of those on CPP disability pensions in 2000, up from 12 percent in 1990 and 11 percent in 1980, it noted.

Mental disorders are a more common disability for women, accounting for 25 percent of women on disability, compared with 20 percent of men.

The report does not attempt to explain the surge in mental disorders, although there have been numerous studies on the increasing stress among workers, particularly women, who are forced to juggle work and family responsibilities.

While mental disorders are the leading cause of new disability cases, it remains second to musculoskeletal disorders among existing disability beneficiaries, accounting for 29 percent of all cases.

The increase in the proportion of workers who have been disabled by a mental disorder contrasts with a decline since the mid-1990s in the proportion of CPP benefits that are going to disabled workers.

In 2001, the $2.6 billion paid in CPP disability benefits to 279,000 disabled workers accounted for 13 percent of all CPP benefit payments, down from 17 percent in 1994.

"In comparison to other benefits paid by the CPP, the disability expenditures have levelled off in recent years," the report said.

It credited in part money-saving reforms that have made it more difficult to qualify for, and then to keep, benefits, and measures to get people back to work.