In the wake of high inflation, Canadians find themselves facing a twofold dilemma, one that not only burdens their wallets but also takes a toll on their mental health, according to a recent Ipsos poll.
The poll, released Monday and commissioned by MNP Ltd., found that higher costs and interest rates are causing “inflation isolation,” as more than half of the respondents (51 per cent) said they are staying home more to save money.
A third of respondents said they are spending less time socializing or hanging out with friends in order to cut costs.
“Canadians are feeling mental anguish with rising inflation and interest rates,” Grant Bazian, president of MNP Ltd., told Global News. “People are scared of spending money and as a result, they’re staying at home and not doing things they normally would and feeling isolated as a result.”
The poll comes less than a week after the head of the Bank of Canada, Tiff Macklem, acknowledged that although inflation rates are starting to slow, higher interest rates are “squeezing” Canadians. The Bank of Canada began rapidly increasing its benchmark interest rate in March 2022, causing many homeowners’ mortgage payments to balloon.
This financial pinch felt by some comes amid soaring food costs, which is causing many Canadians to have to reach deeper into their pockets to afford everyday essentials.
“Canadians are being practical and smart,” Bazian said. “They’re spending money where they need — a roof over their head and food in their belly — but they’re averse to spending money outside of the home, like movies, concerts, maybe trips.”
The Ipsos poll found that 34 per cent of Canadians reported paying more in their monthly debt payments compared to a year ago. And almost half (45 per cent) said they don’t believe they will be able to cover their living expenses in the next year without racking up more debt.
One in five respondents reported feeling a sense of social isolation or loneliness as a result of higher interest rates and inflation, according to the poll. Faced with the constant worry of making ends meet, two in five respondents said the current economic conditions have led to increased stress and anxiety.
For those respondents who rated their personal debt as “terrible,” the poll found they were significantly more likely to feel increased stress (77 per cent), anxiety (72 per cent), stay home more often (72 per cent), and spend less time socializing (55 per cent) to save money, compared to those who rated their personal debt situation as “excellent.”
According to the poll, younger Canadians and those earning less than $40,000 were most likely to reduce their socializing and time spent with friends, leading to more social isolation and loneliness.
“People that are older typically have more money by the way for savings. They may not have mortgages or not much left on their mortgage,” Bazian explained.
“When you’re a young adult, you’re just starting into that world, so you’re going to have a lot of debt associated with your house and your car financing, maybe furniture. And yet you still want to go on trips with your family and not be left out. So definitely a lot more anxiety,” he added.
Although the high cost of living and debt have a way of isolating people, both emotionally and socially, Bazian recommends still trying to reach out to friends and family.
He advised trying more affordable ways to socialize, including outdoor activities like walks or picnics or organizing potluck dinners.
“Or maybe it’s finding people with similar financial constraints that you can do that with or just maybe being honest with friends,” he said.
For people who are grappling with debt and financial challenges, Bazian also recommended seeking assistance from debt specialists to figure out what options you have.
The data was compiled by Ipsos on behalf of MNP Ltd. between Sept. 5-8, 2023. For this survey, a sample of 2,000 Canadians aged 18 years and over was interviewed. Weighting was then employed to balance demographics to ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the adult population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within ±2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadian adults been polled. The credibility interval will be wider among subsets of the population. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.
— with files from Global News’ Craig Lord and the Canadian Press