Adult Canadians are reporting levels of moderate to severe anxiety, loneliness, and feelings of depression as high as early in the pandemic, according to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health’s (CAMH) ninth survey of Canadians’ pandemic health and substance use, conducted in collaboration with research technology and consumer data collection company Delvinia. This final survey of the series was completed by 1,004 Canadians between January 7 and 11, 2022.
Overall, a quarter (25.1 per cent) of survey participants reported feeling moderate to severe anxiety, significantly higher than the 19.0 per cent reported in the last survey completed in July 2021. Similar spikes were found in reports of loneliness (24.1 percent now compared to 18.8 per cent last summer) and feelings of depression (22.3 percent now compared to 18.6 per cent last summer).
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The survey also found a significant gender gap in the results. Reports of moderate to severe anxiety, loneliness and feelings of depression increased significantly among women, but only slightly for men.
“These larger increases among women may reflect that they are often carrying a disproportionate burden, including imbalances in caregiving responsibilities and frontline work,” said Dr. Samantha Wells, survey co-lead and Senior Director at the Institute for Mental Health Policy Research at CAMH.
Also of concern was a significant increase in reports of unmet mental health needs, with 24.0 per cent of Canadians disclosing they needed mental health services to cope with the pandemic in the past 12 months but were unable to receive them, as compared to 19.5 per cent last summer. Again, this increase was especially evident among women (increase from 21.7 to 27.2 per cent).
People with jobs that expose them to a high risk of contracting COVID-19 reported large increases in adverse mental health symptoms, with 37.0 per cent reporting moderate to severe anxiety compared to 23.5 per cent last summer, and 35.7 per cent reporting feelings of depression compared to 24.8 per cent last summer, the highest levels recorded since the pandemic began.
“While people are incredibly resilient, as this pandemic wears on it’s the people working on the frontlines who are among the most affected,” added Dr. Wells. “Many, especially those in the healthcare sector, face significant stressors and unfortunately they risk reaching the point of burnout. Many people will eventually recover, but others may suffer. We need to make sure there are supports for those most affected.”
“After all of the ups and downs of the pandemic, in terms of the overall mental health of Canadians, in many ways we are right back to where we were two years ago,” said Dr. Hayley Hamilton, survey co-lead and Senior Scientist at the Institute for Mental Health Policy Research. “With Omicron in full force during this survey period, the relatively lower levels of mental distress reported last summer when the vaccine rollout was in full swing are now a distant memory for a lot of people. It has never been more important to invest in mental health to prepare our healthcare system for the fall-out from this pandemic.”
Other Key Survey Findings:
- Fear of contracting COVID-19 doubled from 14.2 per cent to 28.3 per cent.
- Consistent with previous surveys, Canadians between 18 and 39 years old reported the highest levels of moderate to severe anxiety, loneliness and feelings of depression of any age group (33.5 per cent for anxiety, 29.1 per cent for loneliness and 27.7 per cent for feelings of depression).
- Also consistent with previous surveys, those over 60 had the lowest levels of anxiety, loneliness and feelings of depression of any age group (16.0 per cent for anxiety, 15.6 per cent for loneliness and 15.6 per cent for feelings of depression).
- Canadians with children under 18 reported significantly higher levels of moderate to severe anxiety than those without (31.0 per cent compared to 23.4 per cent).
“I think for a lot of people, this wave feels different from the other waves, like the rug has been pulled out from under them after they thought the worst was over,” stated CAMH Psychiatrist Dr. David Gratzer. “I am seeing more pessimism and less resilience than in previous waves. Remember, we were already in a mental health crisis before the pandemic began, and this won’t end when the last COVID-19 patient leaves the ICU. For health policymakers, this is a long-term issue that needs to be addressed right now.”
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