What are the Risk Factors for Mental Illness?

Mental illness arises from a complex interaction of genetic, biological, personality and environmental factors. Mental illnesses affect people of all ages, education levels, income levels and cultures.

Specific risk factors include:

  • family history of mental illness
  • age
  • sex
  • substance abuse
  • chronic diseases
  • family, workplace, life event stresses

The relative effect of each of these risk factors varies among mental disorders. For example, women are at greater risk than men for some disorders (and vice versa) and some disorders typically appear in early adulthood (18 to 30 years) whereas others show a higher risk in middle age between 40 and 60 years.


Source: More information on the factors that affect mental illness can be found on page eight in the Public Health Agency Report,The Human Face of Mental Health and Mental Illness In Canada 2006“.