Latest Mental Health Research Canada study (Wave 5) finds anxiety and depression continuing to rise during pandemic

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February 26, 2021 – Mental Health Research Canada (MHRC) today released the results of the fifth study in their ongoing series of surveys devoted to tracking and exploring the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Canadians’ mental health. This study was conducted in Early February 2021, while MHRC’s previous studies were conducted in April, August, October, and December 2020. The study will continue with new surveys every 6-8 weeks until March 2022. The key findings of this study include: 

  • Canadians are reporting their highest levels of anxiety (25%; +2 since December) and depression (17%; +2) of the pandemic to-date – above the levels at the peak of COVID’s first wave.
  • More than 1.8 million Canadians ages 18 and older – or 6% of the population – have all four negative indicators, based on a composite index, that this study uses to track mental health. The indicators are: a high anxiety and depression rating, moderate to severe mental health symptoms, low management of stress, and low resiliency. Female and younger Canadians are over-represented in this group.
  • Social isolation is now the leading self-reported stressor having a negative impact on mental health, increasing again in Poll 5.
  • The economy is again having a negative impact on mental health, countering the signs of improvement noted in Poll 4. More than half of Canadians are worried about making ends meet, a considerable increase since before the pandemic.
  • Younger Canadians, ages 18 to 34, are the group who tend to be the most vulnerable to a decline in mental health. This group exhibits a higher incidence of anxiety and depression, a higher incidence of daily symptoms, and are more likely to be scored as severe on the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10). Also, the economic decline, ability to make ends meet financially, and social isolation are disproportionately having a negative impact on this group’s mental health. They are also less likely to be optimistic about their ability to recover and are less likely to be receiving treatment. 
  • Canadians report that getting outdoors is the best activity to support positive mental health, with two-fifths of Canadians indicating a positive impact on mental health even during the winter months. The impact is significantly more positive than physical activity (21%) and a number of indoor activities including reading (30%) and entertainment (25%).​

These are just some of the results from the latest MHRC pandemic study, based on an online survey conducted among a randomly-selected, reliable sample of N=3,005 adult Canadians from February 1-8, 2021. On behalf of MHRC, Pollara Strategic Insights designed, conducted, and analysed the results of this survey and the previous surveys in this ongoing series. The next survey installment will be in field soon. Stay tuned for more results in the months ahead.

Please visit the MHRC survey data hub to download the full report of these survey findings as well as the reports from the previous surveys in this series.

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