The Canadian Mental Health Index improved by almost one point in February 2022 compared with January 2020. The February score was -10.6, up from -11.3 in January. 

The 1.1-point drop in the January index follows four months of stability, Lifeworks points out. It also marks the largest single-month decline in the Canadian Mental Health Index since October 2020.

Despite February's improvement, the Canadian Mental Health Index is still dragging more than 10 points behind the pre-2020 benchmark score of 0.0, Lifeworks notes. The February score is the 23rd negative result in a row. 

Optimism wanes 

Secondary scores for optimism and general psychological health also declined in February 2022. 

In contrast, the secondary productivity score showed the most significant improvement, reaching a level not seen since the index was launched. 

The highest secondary score remains financial risk. It represents an improvement in the amount of money in the emergency fund compared with 2019, Lifeworks says. 

The index also shows that mental health scores have improved significantly in Manitoba and Quebec. All provinces except Newfoundland and Labrador have seen improvements in mental health compared with January 2022. 

Comfortable with less contact 

Also in the February 2022 index, 66 percent of the survey respondents said they were comfortable with less social interaction than they had pre-pandemic. These individuals score higher on mental health than the national average, Lifeworks says.

Global leader and Senior Vice President, Research and Global Wellbeing, Paula Allen commented on the isolation behind this result. “It is clear that people are comfortable interacting and seeing other individuals less, and even though less interaction is what we have become used to, it does not mean that it is best in the long term.”

Even before the pandemic, Allen observed a general trend toward greater isolation, which is now exacerbating. “This is yet another risk factor for mental health that both individuals and employers need to be concerned about. It might take some time, but we need to start connecting to others more than we are now.” 

Career changes 

Half of the Index survey participants say they are rethinking their career goals, which involves retraining or retiring. The Index shows that 30 per cent of Canadians changed their career goals due to the pandemic. Participants aged 40 or younger are more likely to report a change. 

In addition, 11 per cent plan to change careers. Lifeworks reports that this group has a mental health score of -21.3 points, more than 10 points below the national average. In contrast, 20 per cent plan to retire; this group has the highest mental health score. 

Finally, 30 per cent claim to be training for another job, while 24 per cent are considering quitting and looking for another job. Managers are 55 per cent more likely to report plans to change careers due to the pandemic. 

Overall wellness  

“Canadians continue to face many challenges, both within and outside of the workplace as a result of the pandemic, across the full physical, mental, financial and social wellbeing spectrum,” said Lifeworks president and CEO Stephen Liptrap.

Liptrap believes that people’s decisions are largely driven by the search for new opportunities to improve their overall wellbeing. “As organizations throughout Canada navigate this complex time, it is critical that employee wellbeing remains top of mind in retention and as a driver of longer business success.”