The recently released Canadian Survey on Disability (CSD) has brought attention to a significant rise in disability rates across the country, with 27% of Canadians aged 15 and older, totaling 8.0 million people, reporting limitations in their daily activities due to one or more disabilities. This marks a 5 percentage point increase from 2017 when the rate was 22%, affecting 6.2 million individuals.

The survey identifies several contributing factors to this surge, including the aging population and a substantial increase in mental health-related disabilities among youth and working-age adults. In 2022, the disability rate among women was higher at 30%, compared to men at 24%, maintaining the pattern observed in 2017.

Among age groups, youth (15 to 24 years), working-age adults (25 to 64 years), and seniors (65 years and older) all witnessed a rise in disability rates over the five-year period. Notably, youth experienced the largest increase, with a 7 percentage point jump from 13% in 2017 to 20% in 2022.

The survey highlights mental health-related disabilities as the fastest-growing category, increasing by 6 percentage points from 33% in 2017 to 39% in 2022. This aligns with broader trends indicating a decline in self-reported very good or excellent mental health and an increase in fair or poor mental health among Canadians.

The types of disabilities varied among age groups, with mental health-related disabilities showing an 8 percentage point increase for both youth and working-age adults. Among seniors, memory-related disabilities saw a 2 percentage point increase. Persons with disabilities often reported multiple co-occurring disability types, with seniors being more likely to have four or more.

In terms of severity, 41% of persons with disabilities were classified as having “more severe” disabilities, with women more likely than men to fall into this category. However, the employment rate for working-age adults with disabilities increased to 62% in 2022, narrowing the gap with persons without disabilities by 5 percentage points since 2017.

Financial challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic were notable, with 45% of persons with disabilities reporting difficulties in meeting their financial obligations. Additionally, the median personal after-tax income for persons with disabilities ($32,870) was lower than that of persons without disabilities ($39,490), with those with more severe disabilities facing an even greater income disparity.

Accessibility barriers were also highlighted, with 72% of persons with disabilities reporting experiencing at least one of 27 types of barriers in the past year, a concern that the upcoming 2024 National AccessAbility Week aims to address.