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Mental health index shows biggest decline among workers in the Prairies: Morneau Shepell


April 22, 2020
By Talent Canada Staff

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Photo: Getty Images

The pandemic is affecting the mental health of people across the country, but it’s taking the biggest toll on individuals in the Prairies, according to Morneau Shepell.

The company’s Mental Health Index report showed the biggest decline in mental health in Alberta (down 14.3), Manitoba (down 13.5) and Saskatchewan (down 12.9) when compared to the benchmark.

In comparison, the Maritimes (down 12.4), Quebec (down 12.2), British Columbia (down 11.0) and Newfoundland and Labrador (down 10.9) fared slightly better and Ontario (down 10.7) had the smallest drop compared to the pre-2020 benchmark of 75.

“Expanding our research to identify the more granular trends affecting individuals in Canada was critical to better inform our support for those in need,” said Stephen Liptrap, president and chief executive officer. “While we expect individuals to feel different levels of anxiety depending on their unique situation, one thing that remains true is that business leaders have a responsibility to support the well-being of their people. Providing targeted, informed support that specifically addresses the anxieties individuals are facing is critical, especially in challenging times.”

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Women suffering more

When analyzing individual households, those who identify as female were significantly more likely to report a negative impact to their mental health as a result of the pandemic, declining 14.6 points (compared to males declining 8.8 points).

This trend followed for those in younger age groups (those aged 20-29 reporting the most negative impact), individuals that have lost their job in the past six months and those in the lowest income bracket (under $30,000 per annum).

Increase in mental stress scores

The report has also been expanded to compare the level of mental stress individuals have experienced as a result of COVID-19. The mental stress change score compares stress in the prior month to the current month.

Comparing against a benchmark score of 50, which indicates no change from the prior month, Canada’s mental stress change score increased to 74.7. Within the country, mental stress change scores increased in Newfoundland and Labrador (82.1), Alberta (77.5), Manitoba (77.4), the Maritime provinces (76.6), Saskatchewan (75.3), British Columbia (74.7), Ontario (75.5) and Quebec (72.1) – all against the benchmark score of 50.

“Our Mental Health Index report comes at a unique and important time,” said Paula Allen, senior vice president of research, analytics and innovation. “As Canada nears its peak in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, we’re also facing a pivotal moment in addressing the anxieties that individuals are facing as a result of the virus’ impact on their daily lives. Now is the time to intervene with support programs, such as the internet-based cognitive behavioural therapy offering that the Government of Manitoba launched for its residents. This type of support can help prevent these mental health concerns from becoming a full-blown crisis.”

About the Mental Health Index

The monthly survey by Morneau Shepell was conducted through an online survey in English and French from March 27 to March 30, 2020, with 3,000 respondents in Canada. All respondents reside in Canada and were employed within the last six months. The data has been statistically weighted to ensure the regional and gender composition of the sample reflect this population.

The margins of error for the survey are +/- 3.2 per cent, valid 19 times out of 20. The Mental Health Index is published monthly, beginning April 2020, and compares against benchmark data collected in 2017, 2018 and 2019.