Mental health continues to decline among Canadians
The May 2020 results of the Morneau Shepell Mental Health Index, shows that COVID-19 continues to have a negative impact on the mental wellbeing of Canadians, despite declining infection numbers and despite the fact most provinces are moving forward with phased plans to reopen their respective economies.
The index shows a 12-point decrease from the pre-pandemic benchmark, a move which follows an identical 12-point decrease against the benchmark, reported in April 2020.
The study found, across the country, modest score improvements in Alberta, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, the Maritimes and Saskatchewan while declines were witnessed in British Columbia, Quebec and Ontario. The study’s authors say mental stress increased significantly from April to May. Those with reduced salaries reported the greatest increase in stress levels. Those in healthcare-related industries fared slightly better in terms of mental health than the population overall.
“This is the second consecutive month where Canadians report an increase in mental stress compared to the prior month,” say the report’s authors. “The continuing low Mental Health Index score, plus the continued month-over-month increase in mental stress raises concerns regarding the potential longer-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Canadians’ mental health.”
Women are more likely to report a negative impact to their mental health. Other populations at higher risk include those between ages 20 and 29 and those in the lowest income bracket. Those with access to an employee assistance program reported better mental health scores compared to those who do not have access.
Those with reduced salary most affected
According to the survey, 61 per cent of Canadians indicated that they remained employed at the same income level while 28 per cent indicated that they’ve experienced a reduction in hours or salary. Those who maintained their income had the best mental health scores. Those who maintained employment but with reduced salary had the lowest scores. Those without emergency savings experienced a lower score in mental health compared to the overall group. Those with children are also more likely than those without to have experienced a more negative impact on their mental health.
Overall, a significant majority of those surveyed, 73 per cent, say the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted their mental health; 95 per cent indicate that they have had some personal disruption as a result of the pandemic.
“While the physical health risk of COVID-19 is the focus of much attention, the mental health impact requires similar attention and action,” say the report’s authors. They add that action is required on three fronts: Individuals need to attend to the impact the pandemic is having on their mental health, businesses need to attend to the risk among their employees to reduce productivity impacts, health care costs and disability-related absences. Governments, meanwhile, are encouraged to attend to the mental health of the population, as a population under strain is less likely to participate fully in the economy.