Almost four of 10 Canadians reported feelings of loneliness or isolation because of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Black Press Media File)

Almost four of 10 Canadians reported feelings of loneliness or isolation because of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Black Press Media File)

Nearly four of 10 Canadians feeling loneliness or isolation because of COVID-19

Pandemic also worsened the mental health of most Canadians with a positive diagnosis before pandemic

Almost four of 10 Canadians reported feelings of loneliness or isolation because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This figure appears in newly released research from Statistics Canada surveying the wide-ranging impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The survey found about one in five Canadian adults aged 18 and older (21 per cent) screened positive for at least one of three assessed mental disorders during the survey period from September to December 2020: major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Researchers did not specifically ask respondents to report their symptoms in relation to COVID-19. “As such, any reported symptoms may have been present before the beginning of the pandemic,” it reads. This said, the pandemic may have intensified pre-existing symptoms.

“Of those who screened positive for a disorder, 68 per cent reported that their mental health had worsened since the start of the pandemic,” it reads.

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To better understand the mental health of Canadians negatively affected by the pandemic, researchers compared the prevalence of positive screens for mental disorders between those who experienced various impacts due to the pandemic with those who did not.

While 38 per cent of Canadians said they experienced feelings of loneliness or isolation, this impact was significantly higher among individuals with major depressive disorder (29 per cent versus six per cent), generalized anxiety disorder (25 per cent versus six per cent), and probable PTSD (13 per cent versus two per cent), compared with those who did not report experiencing this impact.

The survey also finds a relation between mental health and financial difficulties. Almost one-third of Canadians who reported financial difficulties due to the pandemic also screened positive for major depressive disorder (32 per cent) or generalized anxiety disorder (29 per cent). Another 17 per cent of Canadians who reported financial difficulties also screened positive for probable PTSD.

By contrast, among individuals who did not experience financial difficulties due to the pandemic, fewer screened positive for depression (12 per cent), anxiety (10 per cent) and probable PTSD (five per cent).

“This pattern is consistent with pre-pandemic findings of an association between higher rates of mental disorders, and low income and financial strain,” it reads. “Those who reported job or income loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic also had much higher rates of screening positive for each of the mental disorders compared with those who did not experience that impact due to the pandemic.”


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