In March 2024 there was a break in the TELUS Mental Health Index (MHI) two-month downtrend. There was notable improvement in the overall MHI score, rising to 64.4 from 63.2 in February 2024. 

The MHI categorizes scores into three groups: 'distressed' mental health covers scores from 0 to 49, 'strained' mental health from 50 to 79, and 'optimal' mental health from 80 to 100.

This data comes from an online survey of 3,000 Canadians who are currently employed or were employed within the last six months. The initial publication of MHI results was in April 2020. 

Anxiety and isolation remain challenges 

Despite the improvement, the mental health of Canadian workers remains very strained, according to TELUS Health. The report shows that 32 per cent of workers are at high risk of mental health issues, with 44 per cent at moderate risk. About 30 per cent of workers at high risk have been diagnosed with anxiety or depression, in contrast to only 7 per cent of those at moderate risk and 2 per cent at low risk. 

All mental health subscores improved between February and March, with financial risk showing the most significant increase – a two-point rise from February 2024. 

Emotional strain on managers 

Managers are finding it challenging to meet the emotional needs of their team members, with change and uncertainty adding to the burden. Younger managers, in particular, are most affected. 

The survey showed that 39 per cent of managers said they found it difficult to manage the emotional needs of one or more team members. This group scored the worst in mental health, at 57.5, which is 17 points lower than managers who reported no difficulty, and 7 points below the national average of 64.4. 

Younger managers, under 40 years old, are 70 per cent more likely to report difficulties than those over 50. 

Resource shortages 

When asked if they feel the strain of leading their team during times of change or uncertainty, 38 per cent of managers responded affirmatively. This group has the lowest mental health score at 54.6, which is 22 points lower than managers who feel no strain, and nearly 10 points below the national average. 

Additionally, 39 per cent of managers reported not having access to, or being unsure about, resources to help them face these challenges. Those without access to resources scored the worst, at 60.3, more than 7 points below managers with access to resources, and 4 points below the national average of 64.4. 

Despite these challenges, managers still reported a higher mental health score in March 2024 than non-managers, at 65.4 compared to 63.7. 

COVID-19 aftermath 

The report also reflects on the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, declared on March 11, 2020, by the World Health Organization. It was this crisis that prompted Lifeworks Solutions (acquired by TELUS in 2022) to start releasing data on the Mental Health Index beginning April 2020, comparing it with data from 2019. 

Paradoxical demands 

According to Global-Watch’s system that monitors global trends in health and quality of life at work, managers often face paradoxical demands, balancing growth with the need to address employee mental health. In 2022, Marie-Claude Pelletier, founder and president of Global-Watch, described the manager's situation as a "sandwich" role. 

In 2024, trends identified by Global-Watch suggest that managers will play a critical role in complying with current and upcoming regulations on psychosocial risks, facing challenges such as workplace violence, harassment, and incivility. 

The Insurance Portal will soon publish an article on the eight trends identified in 2024 by Global-Watch.