Poll suggests second wave of COVID-19 has been more punishing to Ontarians mental health

CMHA urges province to prioritize mental health in upcoming budget

The pandemic’s strain on the mental health of Ontarians has reached all-time highs according to a new survey by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA).

The CMHA is urging the Ford government to make the sector a priority in its upcoming budget on Mar. 24.

The latest numbers from the Ontario Division of CMHA found only 35 per cent of Ontarians consider their current state of mental health as ‘very good’ or ‘excellent,’ which is a drop from 52 per cent recorded in its first poll last May.

Additionally, nearly 80 per cent of Ontarians now believe we’ll be in a serious mental health crisis post-pandemic – up from 66 per cent in CMHA Ontario’s second poll in August.

“When we decided to start surveying Ontarians a year ago, we were worried about the mental health fallout of the pandemic,” said CMHA Ontario CEO Camille Quenneville. “While we were concerned after our first round of results last spring, the second round in the summer provided some hopeful results. Now, the results of this latest poll show that people are having more trouble coping with the effects of the pandemic. The need for more supports has never been more clear.”

The poll found that rates of anxiety, stress and depression during the pandemic are also worse than ever.

CMHA also found 57 per cent of Ontarians are lonelier since the start of the pandemic, while 47 per cent wish they had someone to talk to, and more than a third (36 per cent) say they are often, very often or more always lonely.

Mental health declining
Ontarians’ perceptions of their mental health have worsened dramatically since the previous polls.

  • 36 per cent of Ontarians say they’re experiencing very high or high stress (up from 30 per cent in the summer)
  • 35 per cent are feeling very high or high anxiety (up from 30 per cent in the summer)
  • 17 per cent say they’re always or very often depressed (up from 13 per cent in May)
  • More than one quarter of Ontarians (27 per cent) are using more substances to cope (up from 21 per cent in the summer)
  • Nearly eight in 10 Ontarians (79 per cent) can see how COVID-19 is negatively impacting the mental health of others
  • In spite of the negative statistics, more than three-quarters (77 per cent) of Ontarians feel they’re handling public health restrictions well

Relationships impacted
The pandemic has both positively and negatively impacted relationships.

  • 25 per cent say their relationship with partners is better now than before the pandemic, while 29 per cent say their relationship with children is better
  • However, 36 per cent say friendships are worse and 27 per cent say relationships with parents are worse
  • Among the most difficult aspects of the pandemic have been not seeing extended family (74 per cent) and friends (78 per cent)

Access to services
More Ontarians are confident in their ability to find mental health and addictions supports now (52 per cent) than in the first round of polling (44 per cent), but:

  • More people who are trying to access supports now are finding it difficult (35 per cent) as compared to the summer (27 per cent)
  • Of those who’ve received supports, 70 per cent found them helpful
  • Nearly nine in 10 (88 per cent) now believe the mental health impact will worsen the longer the pandemic continues (up from 83 per cent in the summer)
  • More than half the province (52 per cent) says the pandemic has widened the gap between different levels of health care available in Ontario

COVID-19 concerns remain
A year into the pandemic, and despite vaccines coming, Ontarians generally are still concerned about the virus itself.

  • 84 per cent are concerned about new strains
  • Eight in 10 are concerned about people not physically distancing (81 per cent) or not taking proper precautions (77 per cent)
  • People remain concerned about someone they know catching the virus (78 per cent)

Pollara’s online research of 1,004 Ontario adults was conducted from Feb. 19-22. It carries a margin of error of ± 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.