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Employment status, income, key factors impacting mental health of Canadians during COVID-19: survey

The vast majority of Canadians reported that their mental health concerns had worsened since the onset of the pandemic

June 23, 2020  by CM Staff

PHOTO: Adobe Stock

OTTAWA — As people in Canada continue to experience unrelenting stress and life disruption due to COVID-19, a survey conducted by The Conference Board of Canada and the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) reveals that employment status, income level, and the availability of coping strategies are having a significant impact on mental health.

The survey — conducted between April 27 and May 15 — took the pulse on mental health by asking more than 1,800 respondents to rate their level of mental health concerns based on 15 key indicators. The vast majority — 84% — reported that their mental health concerns had worsened since the onset of the pandemic. Among their biggest concerns were well-being and family wellness, their personal future, isolation and loneliness, and anxiousness or fear.

“This type of insight is invaluable,” said MHCC president and CEO Louise Bradley, in a prepared statement. “We cannot address the mental health impacts of COVID-19 if we don’t understand their root causes. It’s not enough to assume that mental health has declined because of the pandemic — we need to pinpoint specifics so we can find tailored solutions.”

The survey showed that those who engaged in at least one coping strategy (perceived as beneficial) had lower mental health concern scores. Exercise and connecting with family and friends were ranked as the top social coping strategies, while telemedicine and talking to a mental health professional were the most common strategies for people seeking help.

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The survey also signals an important role for employers in boosting the resilience of Canada’s workforce.

Bill Howatt, research chief of health at The Conference Board of Canada, said the survey findings underscore the importance that social determinants of health are having in the kinds of coping skills people pursue.

“People who experience mental duress and who have not learned or adopted healthy coping skills are more likely to engage in riskier coping activities like alcohol or drug use,” Howatt said in a statement. “Employers can play a proactive role in providing employees access to resiliency and coping skills programs that can help them learn and master these skills.”