October 1, 2020 – Mental Health Research Canada (MHRC) today released the results of a second major survey from their ongoing series of surveys devoted to tracking and exploring the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Canadians’ mental health. MHRC’s first survey, conducted in April 2020, revealed that the proportion of Canadians reporting high levels of anxiety and depression had quadrupled and doubled, respectively, compared to pre-COVID levels. This second survey reveals that these dramatically increased levels of anxiety and depression remained high in Late August – before the second wave had emerged, when COVID restrictions had been relaxed and cases were relatively low.
These are just some of the results from this study, based on an online survey conducted among a randomly-selected, reliable sample of N=4,010 adult Canadians from August 21-31, 2020. The first MHRC survey on this subject matter was conducted amongst N=1,803 adult Canadians in April 2020. On behalf of MHRC, Pollara Strategic Insights designed, conducted, and analysed the results of these surveys. The next survey in this series will be fielded in October, in order to gauge the impact of COVID-19’s second wave upon the mental health of Canadians.
Some of the key findings emerging from this second major survey are as follows:
- Despite the reduction in lockdown restrictions and in new COVID cases between April and August, high levels of anxiety and depression remained steady – if slightly increased – across Canada (anxiety: 20% in April vs. 22% in August; depression: 10% in April vs. 13% in August).
- Nearly two-thirds of Canadians who indicated a high level of anxiety or depression would be classified as having a moderate to severe level of psychological distress according to the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10). Of those in the severe category, the highest proportions were found among men and people living alone.
- Teachers (K-12) are experiencing high levels of anxiety. In Late August – prior to the second wave – 25% of teachers were reporting high levels of anxiety, compared to just 5% prior to the pandemic. Teachers were also pessimistic about their levels of anxiety over the next two months. Their concerns about contracting the virus (44%) and social isolation (50%) are having an outsized negative effect upon their mental health.
- While some factors – especially economic stress – that were negatively affecting mental health have been reduced, the activities previously cited by Canadians as having the most positive impact on mental health are no longer effective. Interaction with family members and entertainment are now having either a neutral or a negative effect on mental health. This may indicate that the effect of these positive activities is not long-lasting if the underlying cause of stress is not adequately addressed.
- Prescription medication is reported by Canadians to be the most common treatment for mental health: 60% of people who indicate a mood or mental disorder diagnosis use prescription medication, with only one-fifth of this group receiving counselling or psychotherapy from a professional.
- 17% of Canadians are currently accessing mental health services – almost half the proportion who were accessing mental health supports before the pandemic (32%), largely due to reduced access to family doctors and in-person one-to-one mental health services.