On November 12, Morneau Shepell released its monthly Mental Health Index™ report, revealing a consistent negative mental health score among Canadians at the seven-month mark of the pandemic. The findings show the impact of this extended period of strain and the presidential election in the United States are major contributing factors.

The Mental Health Index™ score is -11.4, representing a decline from September and puts working Canadians back to near the lowest point in April 2020, when the mental health score was -11.7. The score measures the improvement or decline in mental health from the pre-2020 benchmark of 75. The Mental Health Index™ also tracks sub-scores against the benchmark, measuring financial risk (2.5), psychological health (-2.5), isolation (-11.5), work productivity (-12.6), depression (-12.9), optimism (-13.0) and anxiety (-13.4).

Given the prolonged period of increased strain, nearly half (48%) of respondents reported needing some form of mental health support. The most commonly reported source of mental health support is from family members (24%), followed by support from friends or co-workers (20%) and support from a mental health professional (8%). Additionally, 9% of individuals reported needing support, but have not sought it. This group has, by far, the lowest mental health score (-33.9).

Both work productivity and savings have declined after a brief period of improvement. The score of -12.6 for work productivity is a decline that reverses modest gains over the summer, and brings us below where we were in June 2020 (-12.1). Another negative trend is evident in financial risk. For the second consecutive month, financial risk showed further decline after several months of improvement.

“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. “The restrictions imposed to combat the second wave of the pandemic and the approaching cold weather are keeping Canadians indoors for longer periods of time. 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.”

The research found that the majority (41%) of respondents indicated that they are putting in more effort at work when compared to before the pandemic. These individuals also reported a lower mental health score than those who reported no change in work effort and those who put in less. The increased effort is linked to the emotional strain that makes it harder for people to be as productive as they would have been otherwise.

“New workplace dynamics are influenced by what people are experiencing personally, now more than ever. The pandemic has had a significant impact on employees’ home, family and personal dynamics and work is impacted as well. Canadians have had to adapt to substantial changes in their routine and concerns about job and economic security, while at the same time finding news ways to keep a healthy work-life balance,” said Paula Allen, senior vice president of research, analytics and innovation. “At a minimum, each individual psychologically needs several things each day: a sense of accomplishment, social contact, fun, laughter and physical movement. Employers have a tremendous opportunity to encourage and support these healthy practices, which are part of building the resilience needed now and ongoing.”

Divisive U.S. presidential election taking a toll on Canadians’ mental health

The impact of the 2020 presidential election has extended north of the border in recent months, with Canadians feeling an impact on their mental health. 38% felt that the U.S. election had a negative impact on their mental health, with this group also reporting the lowest mental health score (-16.7) across respondents. In contrast, only 9% of employees felt the election had a positive impact on their mental health. Prolonged uncertainty and information overload continue to contribute to Canadians’ mental strain, which is taken to a new extreme when factoring in political tension. 

The full Canada Mental Health Index report can be found here.  

Source: Morneau Shepell