COVID-19 has impacted the lives of all Canadians. In many cases, it has impacted their mental health and substance use. With continued economic hardships, changes to our daily routines and separation from loved ones, Canadians’ mental health and substance use is expected to continue to worsen over the course of the pandemic.
The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) and the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) have commissioned the Leger polling firm to produce a series of bimonthly surveys over a twelve-month period to explore the long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Canadians’ mental health and substance use. By tracking trends among the general population and priority populations, CCSA and MHCC aim to build on our understanding of the relationship between mental health and substance use during COVID-19 and better support Canadians through these challenging times.
Summary Report One, Baseline Survey (Time 1) and Survey 2 (Time 2)
Leger conducted a baseline survey of 2,502 Canadians between October 13 and November 2, 2020, and a second survey of 1,507 people between November 19 and December 2, 2020. Respondents reported more mental health symptoms and increased substance use since March 2020. People with a history of mental health or substance use concerns were disproportionately impacted by stresses related to COVID-19.
Up to one in two individuals with an existing substance use disorder reported having moderately severe to severe symptoms of depression since March 2020. Around one third of those surveyed who drink alcohol reported drinking more since the start of the pandemic. This increase was greater among respondents with a history of substance use disorders, 4 in 10 to almost half of whom reported increased consumption during this period.
Other key findings:
- Up to one in two respondents with current mental health symptoms who use cannabis reported increased use since March 2020, compared to two in five of the general population.
- Over one in three respondents with current mental health symptoms who use alcohol reported consuming more since the start of the pandemic.
- Moderate and severe anxiety symptoms were highest among respondents with a history of substance use and mental health disorders. Respondents’ top stressors were their financial situation (14%), social isolation (12%), and the health of family members (11%).
- Only 24 per cent of respondents with problematic substance use and 22 per cent with current mental health symptoms have accessed treatment since March.