Canadians are feeling unprecedented levels of anxiety, according to Mental Health Index

Pandemic has caused a dramatic 16-per-cent drop in Canadians’ mental health, according to Morneau Shepell’s Mental Health Index: a score of 63

Morneau Shepell announced the results of its new Mental Health Index, which includes a measure of how the pandemic is impacting Canadian workers’ mental health. The index will be released monthly.

The Mental Health Index found a statistically significant decrease in mental health, when compared to pre-COVID-19 benchmarks. The change represents a current score of 63 compared to the benchmark of 75. The size of the change is unprecedented in the three-year period when the benchmark data was being collected. An overall score of 63 is very concerning. Such a score is typically only seen in the subset of employees who have major life disruption and mental health risk. The largest negative change was seen in the measure of anxiety, followed by helplessness, optimism and isolation.

In addition to the overall assessment of mental health, the survey also specifically asked about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The majority of respondents (81 per cent) reported that the COVID-19 pandemic is negatively impacting their mental health, ranging from some concern but an ability to cope (49 per cent) to feeling the crisis has a negative, very negative or significantly negative impact on their mental health (32 per cent).

“We can’t ignore the reality that mental health concerns and anxieties will continue to worsen as COVID-19 escalates. Now is the time for business leaders and governments to take action, ramp up mental health efforts and help normalize the anxieties that individuals may be feeling,” said Stephen Liptrap, president and chief executive officer. “We’re proud to see our governments and many Canadian organizations stepping up to the plate to expand mental health offerings for those who need it, including individuals who have been laid off. We strongly encourage all Canadians to inquire about the services available to them through their current or former employer. Together, we can minimize long-term damage and ensure that we come out of this challenging time stronger than before.”

The Mental Health Index also assessed the main COVID-19-related factors that are leading to these mental health concerns. The top concern having an impact on mental health relates to the financial impact of the pandemic (55 per cent), followed by the fear of getting ill or having a loved one pass away (42 per cent, respectively) and uncertainty around how the virus will impact family (33 per cent). Regardless of the concern, all have the potential to detrimentally impact mental health and well-being long after COVID-19 is contained.

“Perceptions of COVID-19 have changed drastically since the first case entered Canada in January, from initially viewing the virus as an unknown to now as a threat,” said Paula Allen, senior vice president of research, analytics and innovation. “These findings confirm that COVID-19 is not just an infectious disease issue, we are looking at a mental health crisis. This survey is of working Canadians, which makes this pandemic as relevant for businesses as it is for public health.”

The national Mental Health Index willbe publihsed on a monthly basis. It will assess change in mental health and the issues Canadians are most anxious about as the situation evolves, during and after the pandemic.