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Canadians experiencing an epidemic of extreme loneliness

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Mental Health / Canada

Canadians experiencing an epidemic of extreme loneliness

Morneau Shepell’s Mental Health Index™ shows that the mental health of Canadians continues to be affected by isolation, which reached its lowest score since April 2020

Morneau Shepell, a leading provider of total wellbeing, mental health and digital mental health services, today released its monthly Mental Health Index™ report, revealing a negative mental health score among Canadians for the tenth consecutive month. The Mental Health Index™ score for January is -11.7, indicating a continued decline in mental health compared to the pre-2020 benchmark.

The January score is relatively unchanged from December (-11.8) and the same as April 2020, near the outset of the pandemic. Canadians’ strained mental health is due in part to continued struggles with isolation. In January, the sub-score for isolation reached its lowest point since the inception of the Index in April 2020 (-12.8 in January 2021 vs. -10.6 in April 2020), indicating extended restrictions and prolonged physical distancing measures are having a detrimental impact on Canadians’ mental health.

“The winter blues are even more heightened this year with the pandemic and isolation impacting Canadians at an alarming rate across the country,” said Stephen Liptrap, president and chief executive officer. “As we continue to navigate the day-to-day changes and uncertainties of the pandemic, we’re seeing Canadians struggle to maintain a positive mindset and find healthy balances in their work and personal lives. During these challenging months and over the long term, it is imperative that employers prioritize connection among employees to strengthen a sense of belonging and ensure workplace mental health remains a top business priority.”

Full-time post-secondary students report the lowest mental health score
The pandemic has presented tremendous challenges to full-time post-secondary students, requiring them adapt to a virtual learning environment regardless of if they were equipped with the appropriate resources. Compounded by ongoing inconsistencies and ever-evolving restrictions in the virtual learning environment, plus limited peer support and both financial and future career uncertainty, this has led to full-time post-secondary students reporting the lowest mental health score (-26.7) when compared to individuals across all industry sectors for the tenth consecutive month.

Furthermore, full-time post-secondary students are experiencing the most significant increase in mental stress compared to other industries tracked by the Mental Health Index™. Beyond the challenges of today, the pandemic has also exacerbated many pre-existing risks for students.

Young Canadians changing priorities to focus on mental health
As Canadians continue to manage their daily lives and establish new routines to stay well through the pandemic, many are rethinking their priorities. One third (33 per cent) of working Canadians collectively reported wanting to place more focus on their mental health, indicating a heightened awareness of the importance of a healthy mindset. Priorities vary across generations, however, with individuals between the ages of 20 and 29 nearly twice as likely to report wanting to focus on their mental health when compared to those over the age of 60. In comparison, respondents over the age of 60 are nearly twice as likely to want to focus on their physical health than those between the ages of 20 and 29.

“While the mental health score of Canadians continues at a low level month-over-month, it is encouraging to see that a sizeable number of individuals are aware of their mental health struggles and are choosing to proactively prioritize their mental wellbeing,” said Paula Allen, global leader and senior vice president, research and total wellbeing. “This is certainly a step in the right direction, however, it’s important to remember that awareness can only be as effective as the resources available to Canadians. Employers must make a conscious effort to put the needs and wellbeing of their employees first to ensure individuals feel heard, supported and empowered to prioritize their mental health now and in the future.”

About the Mental Health Index
The monthly survey by Morneau Shepell was conducted through an online survey in English and French from December 14 to December 23, 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 Mental Health Index™ is published monthly, beginning April 2020, and compares against benchmark data collected in 2017, 2018, 2019. Click here to read the Canadian Mental Health Index™ report.

About Morneau Shepell
Morneau Shepell is a leading provider of technology-enabled HR services that deliver an integrated approach to employee wellbeing through our cloud-based platform. Our focus is providing world-class solutions to our clients to support the mental, physical, social and financial wellbeing of their people. By improving lives, we improve business. Our approach spans services in employee and family assistance, health and wellness, recognition, pension and benefits administration, retirement consulting, actuarial and investment services. Morneau Shepell employs approximately 6,000 employees who work with some 24,000 client organizations that use our services in 162 countries. Morneau Shepell is a publicly traded company on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX: MSI). For more information, visit


Heather MacDonald
Morneau Shepell

Angela Pinzon
Kaiser & Partners

Source: Morneau Shepell