The Far-Reaching Effects of Trauma: Prevalence

Many statistics are available in Canada and the U.S. on sources and the prevalence of trauma, such as war and family violence. Incidences of violence and abuse are generally underreported, especially in the areas of sexual abuse and sexual assault. It has been well established that, because of the stigma and  shame associated with trauma, current statistics only reflect reported data and not necessarily the actual number of cases. The following statistics are primarily drawn from national and provincial sources, and are only intended to provide a general understanding of trends.


  • According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, about 1 in 10 people in Canada have been diagnosed with PTSD.
  • Most people can experience symptoms without developing PTSD.
  • Canadian research also identifies combat veterans, peacekeepers, terrorist attack survivors, and Aboriginal populations as being at a higher risk to develop PTSD (Sareen et al., 2007).

Canadian Forces:

  • As of July 2011, 30,000 Canadian service personnel have been deployed to Afghanistan.
  • Symptoms of PTSD often appear many months or years after the event(s) that preceded them. Accordingly, it is estimated that over the next five years, 2,750 service personnel will suffer from severe PTSD, and 6,000 will suffer from other mental illnesses diagnosed by a professional.
  • 90% of people with PTSD have a co-occurring diagnosis of depression, anxiety, substance abuse or suicidal ideation.
  • Given the present lifetime occurrence of operational stress injuries (OSI), it is expected that 30% of soldiers who see combat will present with PTSD or clinical depression.
  • “At the moment three quarters of veterans taking part in Veterans Affairs Canada rehabilitation programs following their release for medical reasons are suffering from mental health problems” (Rodrique-Pare, 2011).

Correctional System:

  • 80% of women in prison and jails have been victims of sexual and physical abuse.
  • Many adults convicted of violent adult criminals were physically or sexually abused as children.
  • The majority of those convicted of homicide and sexually related offences have a history of child maltreatment (Jennings, 2004).
  • At the time of admission, 62% of Correctional Services of Canada inmates were identified as requiring follow-up mental health services (Annual Report of the Office of Correctional Investigator, 2011-2012).
  • In the past 10 years, the number of aboriginal inmates has increased by 37.3%, while the non-aboriginal prison population increased 2.4% (Annual Report of the Correctional Investigator, 2011-2012).


  • For the fifth consecutive year, the number of forcibly displaced people worldwide exceeded 42 million, a result of persistent and new conflicts in different parts of the world. By the end of 2011, the figure stood at 42.5 million (UN Refugee Agency, 2012). 
  • In 2011, there were 24,981 applicants for refugee status in Canada. More than 15,000 of these applications were finalized (Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, 2012).
  • Refugees come to Canada primarily from war-affected countries such as Africa, the Middle East and South America. Between 2000 and 2010, Manitoba accepted 11,215 refugees at a rate of about 1,100 a year (Province of Manitoba, 2010).


  • Manitoba marked the arrival of almost 16,000 immigrants (permanent and/or temporary residents) in 2011 (Citizenship and Immigration, 2012).
  • Manitoba’s top immigrant source countries were Asia, Africa and the Middle East, Europe and UK, and South and Central Americas (Province of Manitoba, 2012).
  • Newly arrived immigrants and refugees often experienced trauma in their home countries. As a result, 9% are estimated to have PTSD, and 5% suffer from clinical depression.
  • Of those who present with depression, 71% also have PTSD.
  • Physicians are encouraged to look for sleep disorders, social isolation, and other signs of underlying trauma, rather than probing for details which could be re-traumatizing.
  • Before referring to direct services targeting trauma, focus on practical help with regard to settlement and building up relationships of safety (Rousseau et al., 2011).

Sexual assault:

  • There were 22,000 reported sexual assaults in Canada in 2010 (Statistics Canada, 2011).
  • According to General Social Survey, nine out of ten sexual assaults are not reported (Statistics Canada, 2011)
  • One in four women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime (Sexual Assault Canada, 2012).

Family Violence

All data in this section is taken from Statistics Canada 2011 for data collected in 2009.

Partner Violence:

  • Six percent of Canadians with a current or former spouse reported being physically or sexually victimized by that spouse.
  • Similar portion of males and females reported having experienced spousal violence in the previous five years.
  • Many victims of spousal violence reported recurring incidents. Slightly less than one-half of victims who had experienced an incident of spousal violence in the previous five years stated that the violence had occurred on more than one occasion. Females were more likely than males to report multiple victimizations, at 57% and 40%, respectively.
  • Younger Canadians were more likely to report being a victim of spousal violence than were older Canadians. Those aged 25 to 34 years old were three times more likely than those aged 45 and older to state that they had been physically or sexually assaulted by their spouse.
  • Those who self-identified as gay or lesbian were more than twice as likely as heterosexuals to report having experienced spousal violence, while those who self-identified as bisexual were four times more likely than heterosexuals to self-report spousal violence.
  • Victims of spousal violence were less likely to report the incident to police than in 2004.
  • Aboriginal women (First Nations, Inuit and Métis) are more than eight times more likely to be killed by their intimate partner than non-Aboriginal women (Status of Women Canada, 2012).
  • Close to one in five Canadians aged 15 years and older (17%) reported that their current or ex-partner had been emotionally or financially abusive at some point during their relationship, a proportion similar to 2004.
  • Emotional abuse and/or controlling behaviour are often  pre-cursors to violence in a relationship.
  • Emotional or financial abuse was 2.5 times more common between partners than physical violence. Both women and men reported emotional and financial abuse.
  • Being called names or being put down is one of the strongest predictors of family violence.

Child Abuse:

  • Police-reported data indicate that children and youth under the age of 18 were most likely to be sexually victimized or physically assaulted by someone they knew (85% of incidents).
  • Nearly 55,000 children and youth were the victims of a sexual offence or physical assault, about three in ten of which were perpetrated by a family member.
  • Six in ten children and youth victims of family violence were assaulted by their parents. The youngest child victims (under the age of three years) were most vulnerable to violence by a parent.
  • The rate of family-related sexual offences was more than four times higher for girls than for boys. The rate of physical assault was similar for girls and boys.
  • According to the Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect 2008, which consisted of reports from Child Welfare workers, substantiated cases of child abuse broke down in the following percentages:
    • neglect: 34%
    • exposure to intimate partner violence: 34%
    • physical abuse: 20%
    • emotional maltreatment: 9%
    • sexual abuse: 3%
  • 2,400 reported violent crimes against seniors (ages 65 and over) were committed by a family member.
  • The only violent offence for which senior females experienced higher rates than males was for sexual assault.
  • Senior women experience higher rates of family inflicted abuse.
  • Most senior victims know the person behaving violently.
  • An adult child and/or spouse commit most family violence against seniors.

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