'That finding really jumps out': Half of Canadians say mental health has worsened during COVID-19 pandemic

As job losses mount and self-isolation continues, half of Canadians say their mental health has gotten worse during the COVID-19 pandemic, with 10 per cent reporting it has deteriorated "a lot," according to a new survey.

Angus Reid survey suggests 44% are worried, 34% are grateful and 30% are just bored

Psychologist Mary Alvord holds a video conference with her colleague, psychologist Veronica Raggi, whom she had scheduled to meet in person, in Chevy Chase, Md., in March. A new survey shows 50 per cent of Canadians reported a deterioration in their mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Steve Ruark/The Associated Press)

As job losses mount and self-isolation continues, half of Canadians say their mental health has gotten worse during the COVID-19 pandemic, with 10 per cent reporting it has deteriorated "a lot," according to a new survey.

Less than 20 per cent of Canadians polled reported being optimistic when asked to survey their life in the past couple of weeks, and 16 per cent described themselves as depressed, according to the online survey released Monday by the Angus Reid Institute.

Eleven per cent said they were untroubled, 14 per cent reported feeling normal and nine per cent felt numb. Six per cent were happy, according to the survey conducted between April 15 and 17. The survey was conducted among a representative randomized sample of 1,912 Canadian adults carrying a margin of error of +/- 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

"The conversation around mental health has been percolating since the shutdown occurred," Angus Reid Institute's executive director Shachi Kurl told CBC News.

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"When you have half of Canadians saying that their own mental health has deteriorated in the past several weeks and a significant segment of that group saying it has worsened a lot, that finding really jumps out."

Despite reporting a decline in mental health, three-quarters of Canadians believe it's too soon to begin lifting restrictions on businesses and public gatherings, the survey said. 


Albertan impact

Angus Reid's COVID-19 Impact Index places Canadians into four categories: those who are managing well mentally and financially, those who are mentally struggling, those who are financially struggling and people who are hardest hit feeling severe effects in both the mentally and financially struggling categories.

At least 20 per cent of Canadians from all regions fall into the hardest hit category, with Alberta having the highest number at 32 per cent and Quebec the lowest at 20 per cent.

Alberta's economy has been battered by low oil prices leading to "financial instability and uncertainty" for households, Kurl said, which could explain why people in the province have been particularly impacted by worsening mental health during the pandemic. 

About one-quarter of people in the hardest hit group said their relationships at home have suffered since the COVID-19 outbreak began, compared to six per cent in the managing well group.

(CBC )

While two-in-five Canadians report feeling worried or anxious, one-in-three also say they felt grateful.

"This likely speaks to the overwhelming praise Canadians have offered for their public health officials and front-line workers," Angus Reid reported.

30% are simply bored

Of the emotions associated with the pandemic, about 30 per cent of Canadians say they're simply bored.

While mental health effects from the pandemic are common among every age group and gender, men age 55 and over said they were least affected, while women between 18 and 54 were most likely to report mental health impacts.

"Women are among those most likely to say their own mental health is deteriorating," Kurl said, citing increased emotional work in the household caring for kids or parents due to the pandemic as possible explanations. 

Isolation has also affected relations between housemates, although for the most part cabin fever is not leading roommates to turn on each other.

One-quarter of respondents said their relations with roommates have improved, and 14 per cent say these relationships have worsened. A majority reported no change at all.

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