Highlights & Key Findings

About the Study

The $15 million, four-year (2009-2013) National Population Health Study of Neurological Conditions (the Study) represents Canada’s first-ever population health study of neurological conditions.

The study, led by the Public Health Agency of Canada and Neurological Health Charities Canada, in collaboration with Health Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, was comprised of 13 research projects, three national surveys, seven microsimulation models and the addition of four neurological conditions (epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, parkinsonism, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias) to the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Canadian Chronic Disease Surveillance System.

The Study was developed in partnership between the Government of Canada and Neurological Health Charities Canada (NHCC), a coalition of 24 health charities representing the voice of individuals and families impacted by brain conditions. Approximately 177,000 Canadians with brain conditions and their caregivers offered insight and personal experience into key areas of the Study.  The study also successfully engaged 130 researchers from 30 academic and non-academic institutions across Canada.

The Study was designed to address the lack of information about brain conditions in Canada.  Findings are intended to inform Canadians and governing bodies about the impact these conditions have on affected individuals, families and the health care system, and inform future program and policy development.

The Study marks an unprecedented level of collaboration across fields, professions, jurisdictions, conditions, and interests.  It provides information on brain conditions within a Canadian context, including the finding that brain  conditions, regardless of the specific diagnosis, present similar challenges for individuals, families, health care systems and the Canadian economy.  Findings will help Canadians realize the scale, scope and financial burden of brain conditions in Canada.

Key Findings

  • Impacts
  • Health Service Needs
  • Scope (Prevalence and Incidence)
  • Risk Factors
  • Gaps


The report noted diseases, disorders, and injuries of the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nervous system can have varying effects both within and across conditions but that individuals living with a brain condition share many of the same functional impacts and needs.

Compared to the general population, people with brain conditions are:

  • Two and a half times  more likely to report fair/poor general health;
  • Up to 36% report feelings of stigmatization;
  • More than two times more likely to report mood/anxiety disorders and depression;
  • Five times more likely to be permanently unable to work;
  • 40% of affected children have limited educational opportunities;
  • 15% of affected children are housebound;
  • 14% of individuals employed were demoted or had cut in pay;
  •  35% of affected families experienced a financial crisis within the last year.

Health Services

Overall, Canadians living with a brain condition usually use more health care services than those without a brain condition or even those with other chronic conditions, whether they are living in the community or in various types of health care facilities. In addition, family and friend caregivers are vital to their ongoing care.

  • Individuals living with a  brain condition have health care costs that are significantly higher compared to individuals that do not have that condition;
  • Individuals with brain conditions use more formal and informal assistance with personal care, housework, or general help with activities than those without the condition with 40% receiving care from family/friends;
  • 35% of individuals with brain conditions report receiving formal emotional support
  • Caregivers of individuals with brain conditions are as likely to report distress compared to other caregivers and that distress  is greater if the brain condition is accompanied by cognitive impairment or behavioural issues;
  • Individuals with brain conditions have difficulty in obtaining services when a condition is long-standing or combined with a cognitive impairment.


The study produced many new estimates of the incidence (number of new cases in a given time period) and prevalence (total number of individuals in the population with a brain condition) of conditions in Canada that were not previously available.

  • More than half of individuals receiving home care or living in long-term care facilities have a brain condition;
  • Over the next 20 years, more Canadians will experience severe disability and years of restricted health because of brain conditions;
  • Over the next 20 years, the number of Canadians living with dementia (Alzheimer`s and related dementias) and parkinsonism (Parkinson’s disease)  is expected to almost double, as are the total annual health costs for these conditions;
  • The number of Canadians hospitalized with a brain injury is projected to increase by 28 per cent

Risk Factors

The findings also identified several potentially modifiable risk factors related to the onset and progression of brain conditions. Please note, the presence of a factor associated with a condition does not necessarily imply that it is the cause of the condition, and conversely, its absence would not guarantee that an individual would not develop the condition.

  • Some cardiovascular risk factors, such as smoking and diabetes, known to be associated with the development of stroke, were also found to be associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
  • Brain injury was also identified as a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias in men, and for epilepsy in both sexes.
  • Vitamin D deficiency was found to be associated with multiple sclerosis.
  • Exposure to pesticides was associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, ALS, brain tumours, and Parkinson’s disease.


The study also highlighted areas where gaps in information still exist and where more research is needed.

  • Conditions with an early life onset;
  • Specific populations, such as First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities, and people with less prevalent brain conditions;
  • The relationship between mental health and brain conditions;
  • The distribution, quality and costs of health services for Canadians living with a brain condition in the various regions and jurisdictions of Canada.