Extended isolation and U.S. election taking toll on Canadians’ mental health: survey

Canadians’ mental health declined further in October to negative 11.4, down from negative 10.2 in September, due to the prolonged strain of the coronavirus pandemic and the divisive U.S. election, according to Morneau Shepell Ltd.’s latest monthly mental-health index.

“COVID-19 continues to take a toll on the mental health of Canadians and we are now approaching a point in the year when feelings of isolation, stress and anxiety will likely get worse,” said Stephen Liptrap, the organization’s president and chief executive officer, in a press release. He advised employers to review their mental-health strategies and check back in with employees to avoid long-term impacts on business performance.

Read: Canadians hesitant to access mental-health supports, despite declines during pandemic

Nearly half (48 per cent) of respondents said they needed some form of mental-health support, with the most commonly reported source of support from family members (24 per cent). Only eight per cent said they’ve sought support from a mental-health professional. Indeed, the group with the steepest decline (negative 33.9) in their mental-health score was those who felt they needed support but didn’t seek it (nine per cent).

The report showed the U.S. presidential election cycle also contributed to the decrease, with 38 per cent of respondents expressing that it had a negative impact on their mental health. In fact, this group had the lowest mental-health score (negative 16.7) across respondents.

Additionally, Canadians saved less for the second consecutive month after several months of improvement and work productivity (negative 12.6) returned to levels (negative 12.1) not seen since June 2020. The research found 41 per cent of respondents said they’re putting in more effort at work now than before the pandemic and those that did had a lower mental-health score (negative 12), compared to those who reported no change in work effort (negative 11.9). Meanwhile, those who put in less effort had the highest mental-health score at negative 9.3.

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

“Canadians have had to adapt to substantial changes in their routine and concerns about job and economic security, while at the same time finding new ways to keep a healthy work-life balance,” said Paula Allen, senior vice-president of research, analytics and innovation at Morneau Shepell, in the release.