COVID-19 continues to weigh on Canadians' mental health

by Leo Almazora11 Sep 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted practically every facet of daily life for Canadians, and it’s having an ongoing impact on people’s mental health across a variety of population segments.

That’s the conclusion of Morneau Shepell’s latest Mental Health Index report, which reflects findings from data obtained during the month of August.

From a pre-2020 benchmark of 75, the latest report showed a Mental Health Index score of -11, indicating a broad decline in mental health. Sub-scores also showed consistently increased risk across different dimensions of mental health, including anxiety (-12.9), depression (-12.1), and isolation (12.1).

Drilling deeper into the data, the report found Canadians with no children have been less negatively impacted (-9.9) than those with one (-15.2) or two (-13.0), pointing to heightened concerns around safely reopening schools and getting children back into the classroom. Similar worries were reflected in the index scores of those working in the education sector (-11.6), as well as post-secondary students (-28.5).

“September will be a particularly difficult month for Canadians, as they face another major change in routine and new challenges,” said Paula Allen, senior vice president of research, analytics and innovation at Morneau Shepell.

The idea of a “new normal” has gained steam across industries and demographic segments, but it seems people still need help coping with the situation COVID-19 has visited upon the world. When asked how well they have adapted to changes in their personal life or routine, around one third (34%) of Canadians were undecided or felt they had adjusted poorly. Another thirty per cent of respondents shared a belief that they had adapted badly to both changes in work and finances.

And while respondents are overall reportedly saving more and feeling more in control of their finances, it hasn’t erased their worries over the pandemic’s continuing impact on finances and the economy, which was the most commonly reported concern among those polled (49%).

“While the economy continues to be top-of-mind for all Canadians, those who indicate high levels of uncertainty (-26.8) and those who most believe we will not return to a pre-pandemic state (-19.6), have the lowest scores,” Allen said. “It is important to understand that even as some people are adapting, others are not.”