Third poll in CMHA Ontario series indicates mental health impact of COVID-19 at all-time high

(Toronto, March 15, 2021) – As we mark the one-year anniversary of the province’s COVID-19 emergency declaration, a new survey is highlighting alarming trends that indicate the pandemic’s strain on the mental health of Ontarians has reached all-time highs.

The latest polling data commissioned by Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Ontario Division shows that only a third of Ontarians (35 per cent) consider their current state of mental health as ‘very good’ or ‘excellent,’ a significant decrease from 52 per cent as recorded in its first poll last May.

Additionally, almost 80 per cent of Ontarians now believe we’ll be in a serious mental health crisis post-pandemic – up from 66 per cent in CMHA Ontario’s second poll in August.

The latest poll also showed a troubling pattern of loneliness: more than half Ontarians (57 per cent) are lonelier since the start of the pandemic, almost half (47 per cent) wish they had someone to talk to, and more than a third (36 per cent) say they are often, very often or almost always lonely.

Perhaps not surprisingly, rates of stress, anxiety and depression during the pandemic are also worse than ever.

This data comes from the third poll in a series Pollara Strategic Insights is conducting on behalf of CMHA Ontario to evaluate how Ontarians’ perceptions of their mental health are changing during the pandemic.

“When we decided to start surveying Ontarians a year ago, we were worried about the mental health fallout of the pandemic,” said CMHA Ontario CEO Camille Quenneville. “While we were concerned after our first round of results last spring, the second round in the summer provided some hopeful results. Now, the results of this latest poll show that people are having more trouble coping with the effects of the pandemic. The need for more supports has never been more clear.”

Mental health declining 

Ontarians’ perceptions of their mental health have worsened dramatically since the previous polls.

  • 36 per cent of Ontarians say they’re experiencing very high or high stress (up from 30 per cent in the summer)
  • 35 per cent are feeling very high or high anxiety (up from 30 per cent in the summer)
  • 17 per cent say they’re always or very often depressed (up from 13 per cent in May)
  • More than one quarter of Ontarians (27 per cent) are using more substances to cope (up from 21 per cent in the summer)
  • Nearly eight in 10 Ontarians (79 per cent) can see how COVID-19 is negatively impacting the mental health of others
  • In spite of the negative statistics, more than three-quarters (77 per cent) of Ontarians feel they’re handling public health restrictions well 

    Relationships impacted 

The pandemic has both positively and negatively impacted relationships.

  • 25 per cent say their relationship with partners is better now than before the pandemic, while 29 per cent say their relationship with children is better
  • However, 36 per cent say friendships are worse and 27 per cent say relationships with parents are worse
  • Among the most difficult aspects of the pandemic have been not seeing extended family (74 per cent) and friends (78 per cent)

Access to services 

More Ontarians are confident in their ability to find mental health and addictions supports now (52 per cent) than in the first round of polling (44 per cent), but:

  • More people who are trying to access supports now are finding it difficult (35 per cent) as compared to the summer (27 per cent)
  • Of those who’ve received supports, 70 per cent found them helpful
  • Nearly nine in 10 (88 per cent) now believe the mental health impact will worsen the longer the pandemic continues (up from 83 per cent in the summer)
  • More than half the province (52 per cent) says the pandemic has widened the gap between different levels of health care available in Ontario

COVID-19 concerns remain 

A year into the pandemic, and despite vaccines coming, Ontarians generally are still concerned about the virus itself.

  • 84 per cent are concerned about new strains
  • Eight in 10 are concerned about people not physically distancing (81 per cent) or not taking proper precautions (77 per cent)
  • People remain concerned about someone they know catching the virus (78 per cent)

Pollara’s online research of 1,004 Ontario adults was conducted from Feb. 19-22. It carries a margin of error of ± 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

Mental health and addictions supports have remained available through the pandemic at CMHA branches across the province. You can find your local CMHA branch at cmha.ca/find-your-cmha.

About Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario  

Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Ontario is a not-for-profit, charitable organization. We work to improve the lives of all Ontarians through leadership, collaboration and continual pursuit of excellence in community-based mental health and addictions services. Our vision is a society that embraces and invests in the mental health of all people. We are a trusted advisor to government, contributing to health systems development through policy formulation and recommendations that promote positive mental health. Our 28 local CMHA branches, together with community-based mental health and addictions service providers across the province, serve approximately 500,000 Ontarians each year.