Many restaurants have closed in response to COVID-19. (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)

Young Canadians, hospitality workers bear the brunt of mental strain in 2020: report

A study by Morneau Shepell points to economic uncertainty in the pandemic as the cause for angst

The mental health of Canadians has undergone a steep decline and a slow recovery amid the turbulence of 2020, according to a recent report released by research company Morneau Shepell.

Comparing provinces, Alberta is the most anxiety-ridden, with B.C. close behind as the third most troubled in the country.

The study, which drew on data collected from 3,000 Canadians in an online survey, compared reported mental health to a benchmark set at the start of the year.

Economic uncertainty was singled out as the primary driver of an overall negative mental health score for Canadians generally, with younger Canadians and workers in the hospitality industry hit the hardest by not just the bite of the pandemic, but the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Morneau Shepell’s Paula Allen said, “Without question there are a few industries (that) have been more negatively impacted and seem to have a slower recovery.”

Suffering some of the worst mental health effects were Canadians in industries those associated with tourism and hospitality, reflecting the nature of months-long government-mandated limits on travel and eating out, with workers in those sectors returning consistently low scores.

The data cutting across age cohorts showed that Canadians between 20 and 29 are suffering the worst mental health declines in 2020 compared to the beginning of the year, while older Canadians are relatively laid-back by comparison.

Allen said that the report showed that the pandemic was primarily being seen as an economic destabilizer.

“The younger you are, the more it has impacted you from an economic point of view … one would think as you get older and approach a more vulnerable group from an infection point of view that you should be more anxious, but we’re not seeing that.”

Allen stressed the importance of taking on the uncertainty of 2020 in a coordinated way, saying that it wasn’t something that individuals can approach “one day at a time,” and getting out of the rut that is 2020 will take a lot of personal resilience, support from private companies looking after workers and government initiatives.

“(It’s) critically important for everyone to realize that we’re all in a position of risk. There is really no one that hasn’t been touched by the pandemic.”

Looking around Canada, the data revealed Alberta is the most anxious Canadian province as of July (-13.4) while the folks in Newfoundland and Labrador are relatively chipper at -4. British Columbians had a score of -10.5, the third-worst in the country.

“Manitoba in particular has seen extensive improvements between June and July,” said Allen, who explained that as a first-mover on mental health support, the province was reaping the benefits.

Allen was optimistic but cautious about the recovery of Canadians’ mental health, saying that while the country is still feeling blue at the same time scores were slowly improving, the scars of 2020 would continue well into the future.

“This is the health issue of our time. The potential for the mental health impact of the pandemic to outlast the impact of the actual virus is almost certain.”

Coronavirusmental health

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