Morneau Shepell Ltd.’s latest mental-health index reveals Canadians’ health and well-being remains relatively unchanged since December’s low of negative 11.8, leading many employees to prioritize their mental and physical health as the coronavirus pandemic persists.

Canadians’ mental-health score for January 2021 is negative 11.7, indicating a continued decline in mental health compared to early on in the pandemic back in April 2020 when it was negative 10.6, noted a press release. The prolonged strain on Canadians’ mental health is due in part to continued struggles with isolation and indicates extended restrictions and prolonged physical-distancing measures are taking their toll.

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“As we continue to navigate the day-to-day changes and uncertainties of the pandemic, we’re seeing Canadians struggle to maintain a positive mindset and find healthy balances in their work and personal lives,” said Stephen Liptrap, president and chief executive officer of Morneau Shepell, in the release.

“During these challenging months and over the long term, it is imperative that employers prioritize connection among employees to strengthen a sense of belonging and ensure workplace mental health remains a top business priority.”

In an attempt to manage their daily lives and establish new routines to stay well through the pandemic, many Canadian workers are rethinking their priorities. Indeed, one-third (33 per cent) of workers surveyed reported wanting to place more focus on their mental health, the report noted. However, priorities tended to vary across generations, with individuals between the ages of 20 and 29 nearly twice as likely to report wanting to focus on their mental health compared to those over the age of 60. In comparison, respondents over the age of 60 are nearly twice as likely to want to focus on their physical health than those between the ages of 20 and 29.

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“While the mental-health score of Canadians continues at a low level month over month, it is encouraging to see that a sizeable number of individuals are aware of their mental-health struggles and are choosing to proactively prioritize their mental well-being,” said Paula Allen, the organization’s global leader and senior vice-president of research and total well-being, in the release.