Morneau Shepell, a leading provider of total wellbeing, mental health and digital mental health services, today released its monthly Mental Health Index™ report, revealing a consistent trend of negative mental health among Canadians at the six-month mark of the pandemic. The findings show that strained mental health of Canadians may be here for the long term, driven by concerns about the second wave of the pandemic, an impending lockdown and continued uncertainties regarding when things may settle, and what life may look like.
The Mental Health Index™ score is -10, highlighting an uneven pattern since the start of the pandemic. The survey reported modest increases from April to July, a decline in August and a return to July’s score (-10) in September. The score measures the improvement or decline in mental health from the pre-2020 benchmark of 75. The Mental Health Index™ also tracks sub-scores against the benchmark, measuring financial risk (3.1), psychological health (-1.9), isolation (-9.7), work productivity (-10.8), anxiety (-11.5), depression (-11.8) and optimism (-12.3). Financial risk stands out with a decline after several months of improvement.
“The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is well underway, with case counts rapidly increasing and many provinces seriously assessing the need to revert back to previous lockdown measures,” said Stephen Liptrap, president and chief executive officer. “As we look to the coming months, it’s critical that governments and organizations recognize the risk that the impending isolation will have on Canadians’ wellbeing and take proactive action. If Canadians’ mental health and wellbeing needs are not addressed, the resilience of our country will face a significant long-term threat.”
Change in workplace routine detrimental to wellbeing, but employees less willing to access physical or mental health support
Changes in physical workplace and routine are having a significant impact on Canadian employees’ mental health. Individuals who recently returned to the jobsite had a lower mental health score (-11.0), than those who either remained at the worksite (-7.1) or had always been and continued to work from home (-8.6). Those with the lowest scores are employees who are working from home as a result of the pandemic (-11.4) and those who are both working from home and at the jobsite (-12.9).
The pandemic is also impacting employee productivity. Almost four in 10 (36 per cent) of employees indicated that they are finding it more difficult to feel motivated to work and 34 per cent of respondents said they find it more difficult now than before the pandemic to concentrate on work.
“Motivation is impacted by ongoing strain,” said Paula Allen, senior vice president of research, analytics and innovation. “A decline in motivation suggests emotional exhaustion. Right now we have two main things driving that exhaustion. We are often not balancing work with fun, social contact and exploration. Rest is also important but we need more than rest to have balance. Additionally, some are working more and others are experiencing work as more draining because of concerns about job security or needing to deal with multiple mental and situational distractions, on top of the actual work. Both types of issues can be helped with planning and getting coaching or counselling.”
Despite the decline in mental health and risks to physical health, many Canadians have become less willing to access care. A significant proportion of individuals indicate that the pandemic has made them less likely to access healthcare for physical (29 per cent) and mental health needs (24 per cent) than prior to COVID-19.
“When life is disrupted, we are more likely to ignore important aspects of self-care. We might put things on hold or somehow think everything will automatically get better when things are less disrupted,” said Allen. “Although Canadians are experiencing significant change in all areas of life, accessing physical and mental health support must remain a constant. Employers play a critical role in this by reinforcing the need for self-care and promoting resources such as employee assistance programs and virtual healthcare.”
Six months in, Canadians’ concerns revert back to those in COVID-19’s early stages
As Canadians respond to the pandemic’s second wave, the common concerns reported at the beginning of COVID-19 have resurfaced. The research found that the top concerns impacting mental health are the financial impact of the pandemic (38 per cent), fear of getting ill (34 per cent) and fear of a loved one dying (30 per cent) – echoing the concerns reported in April and May. When analyzing the mental health of individuals based on their fears, those who are most concerned about loneliness during the pandemic had the worst mental health score (-25.8).
Another trend reversing since the start of the pandemic is Canadians’ ability to put aside emergency savings. After several months where Canadians were saving more each month, September marks a decline in the level of emergency savings. This is having a significant impact on Canadians, as those with emergency savings (-5.3) are reporting a much higher mental health score than those without (-23.4). One trend that has remained consistent throughout the pandemic is the impact by gender; individuals identifying as female had a lower mental health score (-12.2) than those identifying as male (-8.2) for the sixth consecutive month. Additionally, parents, younger individuals, those with lower household incomes and non-White populations continue to have lower mental health scores.
About the Mental Health Index™
The monthly survey by Morneau Shepell was conducted through an online survey in English and French from August 21 to August 30, 2020, with 3,000 respondents in Canada. All respondents reside in Canada and were employed within the last six months. The data has been statistically weighted to ensure the regional and gender composition of the sample reflect this population. The margins of error for the survey are +/- 3.2 per cent, valid 19 times out of 20. The Mental Health Index™ is published monthly, beginning April 2020, and compares against benchmark data collected in 2017, 2018 and 2019. The full Canada report can be found at https://www.morneaushepell.com/permafiles/93048/mental-health-index-report-canada-september-2020.pdf.
SOURCE Morneau Shepell Inc.