Employees still in work with reduced salaries highest on mental-health index

While Morneau Shepell Ltd.’s latest mental-health index had the same score — a negative 12-point decline from the pre-coronavirus pandemic benchmark of 75 — as last month’s index, the sub scores showed a modest improvement in anxiety countered by a larger increase in isolation.

The main factors contributing to poorer mental health in the month were anxiety (down 14 points), depression (down 13.9), work productivity (down 13.5), optimism (down 12.3) and isolation (down 11.9). Additionally, this is the second consecutive month in which Canadians reported an increase in mental stress compared to the prior month.

Read: 81% of Canadians say coronavirus is negatively affecting their mental health: survey

“As we enter the third month since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, there are still many questions regarding the reopening of the economy and what lifted restrictions mean for Canadians,” said Stephen Liptrap, president and chief executive officer of Morneau Shepell, in a press release. “The continued compromise to Canadians’ mental health and well-being demonstrates that there is still much work to be done to help mitigate this critical dimension of the public health crisis. As we start to see the end of the strict lockdowns, we need to remain vigilant about support for mental health and not take our eyes off that issue.”

The index also found that Canadians who identify as female are more likely to report a negative impact to their mental health as a result of the pandemic, with an average score of negative 13.9, compared to negative 9.2 for those who identify as male. Other high-risk populations include those aged 20 to 29 and those in the lowest income bracket, earning less than $30,000 per year.

Among households, those with one child scored negative 13.7 on the index, while those with three or more children scored negative 9.2. Comparatively, households with no children scored negative 10.7. And, for those with access to an employee assistance program, respondents reported better mental health (negative 10.7) compared to those who didn’t have access to one (negative 12.4).

Read: How to support employees’ mental health during coronavirus

The index also found that 61 per cent of respondents said they’ve remained employed at the same income level, while 28 per cent indicated either a reduction in hours or salary. Meanwhile, those who maintained their income had the best mental-health scores, at an average of negative 9.4. Those who maintained employment, but with a reduced salary, had the lowest scores, at negative 15.4.

“Our mental-health index shows that Canadians are struggling to cope with changes on how they socialize, work and maintain overall health and well-being,” said Paula Allen, senior vice-president of research, analytics and innovation, in the release. “We also see that certain factors make a difference: losing salary even if you keep your job, the support and recognition you get for your work and the risks you face, whether your organization has an EAP.

“We need to continue to pay close attention to this evolving situation. With greater attention to mental health, and more support, we will hopefully see an improvement from the overall dire state.”

Read: Employee well-being critical to return to work after pandemic