British Columbia

Worry, stress and anxiety affecting a majority of British Columbians, says survey

Almost a full year into the pandemic, over half the people in the province are reporting a decline in mental health, according to a survey commissioned by Pacific Blue Cross.

Not surprisingly, the pandemic is a burden on people's mental health

One year into the pandemic, a survey finds it has had a significant impact on the mental health of British Columbians. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Almost one full year of living with the COVID-19 pandemic has played havoc with the mental health of a majority of British Columbians, according to a new survey commissioned by Pacific Blue Cross and conducted by Insights West.

The survey found that 62 per cent of B.C. residents are feeling more worried, 60 per cent more stress, 59 per cent more anxiety and 59 per cent more boredom, compared to pre-pandemic times. 

According to the data, the arrival of vaccines has made little difference to the state of people's mental health.

In the fall, before vaccines were viable, 57 per cent reported good mental health, a number that hasn't budged in the latest survey. Pre-pandemic, 81 per cent reported good mental health.

Inversely, 43 per cent now score their mental health to be fair to poor, compared to just 19 per cent before the pandemic.

Females and young people suffering more

Female and younger people appear to be affected to a greater degree by negative emotions during the pandemic. Fifty-one per cent of females and 56 per cent of those aged 18 to 34 say their mental health is only fair, poor or very poor.

Loneliness is also being felt more acutely with physical distancing and strict bubble protocols in place, again with females and young people experiencing it the most.

The survey found people are less likely to seek out a mental health professional during the pandemic.

On the bright side, 25 per cent feel their mental health will improve in the next several weeks, and 42 per cent over the coming months.

Other findings in the survey indicate that since the start of the pandemic "there are no consistently positive or negative trends in different activity levels that can affect mental health." They include:

  • Exercise — 29 per cent of British Columbians are exercising more while 34 per cent are exercising less.
  • Diet — 32 per cent are eating better while 21 per cent report eating less healthily.
  • Alcohol and cannabis — 30 per cent are consuming more, 22 per cent consuming less.
  • Sleep — 23 per cent report improved sleeping habits versus one-third (33%) who are experiencing poorer quality sleep.
  • Social — 39 per cent feel less connected to family and friends, 33 per cent more connected.

Results are based on an online survey of 815 B.C. residents conducted from Jan. 20 to 25, 2021. A comparable margin of error for a probability based sample of this size would be +/- 3.4 percentage points.

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