COVID-19 continues to harm Canadians' mental health

New polls show how workers and business owners alike are facing challenges to their well-being

COVID-19 continues to harm Canadians' mental health

A pair of new surveys have confirmed that the events of the COVID-19 pandemic, aside from weighing on Canadian workers’ mental health, is likewise testing business owners.

According to a report from BDC, Canada’s bank for entrepreneurs, nearly two thirds of Canadian business owners it surveyed (64%) are coping well within the COVID-19 context, but almost a third (29%) said it differs on a daily basis. Two in five business owners (39%) reported feeling depressed at least once a week, and two thirds (64%) said they feel tired or are lacking in energy.

In addition, the survey found certain specific groups of business owners appeared disproportionately impacted:

  • Women were substantially more likely to feel depressed (51%) and admit their ability to work was hampered by mental health challenges (40%);
  • An outsized proportion of visible minorities said they faced mental health challenges that limited their productivity (48%), with a third (33%) saying they would have liked support from a mental health professional;
  • Owners of businesses that were still not operational were overwhelmingly likely to feel tired (87%), depressed (75%), and say mental health challenges got in the way of their ability to work (57%).

Among the business owners’ worries, the most significant concerned generating enough revenue to be profitable (43%) and covering expenses (40%).

Meanwhile, in the latest edition of its Mental Health Index, Morneau Shepell found a consistent negative mental health score among Canadian workers, ending October at -11.4.

Nearly half (48%) of respondents said they need some form of mental health support. The sources of support cited by respondents included family members (24%), friends or co-workers (20%), and mental health professionals (8%).

A minority of individuals who reported needing support, but have not sought it accounted for 9% of respondents. That sub-group had the lowest mental health score (-33.9).

The survey also revealed a decline in work productivity, which settled at -12.6 as it reversed modest gains from over the summer. Forty-one per cent of respondents said they’re having to put in more effort at work compared to before the pandemic.

Nearly as many participants (38%) reported feeling a negative impact on their mental health from the U.S. election. Only 9% felt the election positively impacted their mental well-being.

“COVID-19 continues to take a toll on the mental health of Canadians, and we are now approaching a point in the year when feelings of isolation, stress and anxiety will likely get worse," said Stephen Liptrap, president and CEO at Morneau Shepell. “Organizations need to make a conscious effort to check back in with employees and review their mental health strategies, or risk detrimental and long-term impacts on business performance.”