Canadians' stress levels increasing during coronavirus pandemic: Nanos survey

Consistent or constant stress has been felt by more than twice as many Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic as before it, according to a new survey from Nanos Research.

The survey, which involved questioning 1,049 Canadians in late April, found that 13 per cent of respondents reported feeling stressed "all the time" that month, while only four per cent said they felt that level of stress before the pandemic. Another 33 per cent said they were feeling stress "regularly" in April, while only 17 per cent said that was the case a month earlier.

Coronavirus-era stress was more likely to be reported by women – 52 per cent, versus 40 per cent of men – and by younger Canadians. By age group, 54 per cent of respondents aged 18 to 24 reported regular or "all the time" levels of stress, while 51 per cent of those aged 35 to 54 and 35 per cent of those aged 55 or older did the same.

Geographically, Atlantic Canadians were the least likely to report feeling stress before the pandemic, but Quebecers have taken that mantle away from them since then, while Ontarians have consistently remained the most stressed.

"I hope this survey reminds everyone that it's normal to feel stressed, anxious or preoccupied during this outbreak," Louise Bradley, president and CEO of the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) said in a press release.

"There is no shame in admitting as much, and there is certainly no shame in taking advantage of all the resources at your disposal to help you feel better."

Respondents were also asked about their overall mental health, with 10 per cent saying it has become worse since the pandemic arrived and 28 percent describing it as somewhat worse. Another 51 per cent said their mental health was about the same, while seven per cent said it was somewhat better and three per cent said it was better.

Those who reported worsening mental health cited increased stress, uncertainty and sleep problems as key reasons why, as well as feelings of isolation and the disruption to normal activities. Those who said their mental health had improved during the pandemic most often chalked it up to self-care routines and taking up new hobbies.

The survey was released in the middle of Mental Health Week, an annual event organized by the Canadian Mental Health Association. On Sunday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the federal government will spend more than $240 million to support virtual care, with virtual mental health services a major focus.

The government has also created the "Wellness Together" online portal for mental health help. It includes self-assessment tools, education courses and information on where to find counselling. MHCC, which commissioned the Nanos survey, has its own resource portal.

Although these and other mental health resources are readily available, the majority of respondents to the survey said they have not been making use of them.

Nearly two-thirds – 63 per cent – of those surveyed said they had never gone online in the past month to find information about mental health for themselves or their family, while another 14 per cent said they had almost never done so.

Of all those who were surveyed, 28 per cent said their main source of mental health information is news and media websites, while 23 per cent said they used the federal government's COVID-19 website and 19 per cent said they used their province's COIVD-19 site. Fourteen per cent said their main source of mental health information related to the pandemic is social media, whilefour per cent said they look primarily for information from mental health professionals, therapists and doctors.

METHODOLOGY

Nanos conducted an RDD dual frame (land- and cell-lines) hybrid telephone and online random survey of 1,049 Canadians, 18 years of age or older, between April 25 and April 27, 2020 as part of an omnibus survey.

Participants were randomly recruited by telephone using live agents and administered a survey online.

The margin of error for this survey is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The research was commissioned by the Mental Health Commission of Canada and was conducted by Nanos Research.

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