Canadians reporting higher levels of anxiety, depression amid the pandemic

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected. A previous version incorrectly said one in five Canadians have been diagnosed with anxiety or depression since the pandemic started. In fact, those figures refer to pre-COVID-19. 

We’re learning more about the impact the global pandemic is having on Canadians and the results are grim.

A new survey from Mental Health Research Canada (MHRC) has found that 22 per cent of Canadians are experiencing high anxiety levels amid the pandemic, and 13 per cent say their depression level is high.

The percentage of those reporting high anxiety is four times greater than what Canadians said they were experiencing prior to COVID-19, and depression has doubled.

“We have deep concerns about the trends we are seeing,” says John Trainor, chair of MHRC’s board and an adjunct faculty member with the department of psychiatry at the University of Toronto.

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“But we also believe that Canadians are showing strength and common purpose in meeting the COVID-19 challenge. Governments are working together and most Canadians report following public health advice.”

Those findings come from a national survey called Mental Health in Crisis: How COVID-19 is impacting Canadians.

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The survey was launched to capture perceptions of the levels of anxiety and depression and to help identify and evaluate factors that have an impact on mental health.

“MHRC is collaborating extensively with stakeholders federally and provincially as we develop this important work, says Akela Peoples, chief executive of MHRC.

“We are pleased to play a role in providing information to Canadians during the pandemic. This information will be key to helping us all get through the coming months.”

Prior to the pandemic, one in five Canadians reported being diagnosed with either depression or anxiety.

Those findings were released on Saturday, which was World Mental Health Day. The day is dedicated to global mental health education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma.

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“Let’s get rid of that stigma, let’s make sure that every day is mental health day for everybody and that means for ourselves and the other people we care about,” said Toronto Mayor John Tory during a Thanksgiving food drive.

The Pollara Strategic Insights poll was conducted on behalf of Mental Health Research Canada between Aug. 21 and 31. A sample of 4,010 adults in Canada were surveyed online. The margin of error is considered to be plus or minus 1.5 percentage points. The results have been weighed by census data to ensure the sample is representative of the Canadian population.

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