If you think the COVID-19 pandemic has made you more anxious, drink more alcohol, and eat more junk food, join the club.
A Statistics Canada survey tracking Canadian attitudes and behaviours during the pandemic found that one in five Canadians reported feeling moderate or severe anxiety. The web-based survey interviewed 4,600 respondents between May 4 and May 10 and follows a survey conducted between March 29 and April 3 with mostly the same respondents.
During the first survey, respondents reported “high levels of concern about the health, social and economic consequences of the pandemic,” a finding that appears again in the second survey, even as the economy starts to reopen.
“Many Canadians have lost their jobs or their primary source of income because of the pandemic, and this is creating anxiety and worry among Canadians and their families,” it reads.
If anxiety levels among all respondents went up, women (21 per cent) were more likely to feel anxious than men (15 per cent), the survey found. Youth aged 15 to 24 were also more likely to be affected (27 per cent) than middle-aged adults (19 per cent) and seniors (10 per cent), it added.
By way of background, 48 per cent of Canadians reported having excellent or very good mental health in May, six points less than at the end of March.
Survey respondents have also been drinking more over the course of the pandemic. While 14 per cent of Canadians surveyed between March 29 and April 3 said said their consumption of alcohol had increased, close to one in five Canadians (19 per cent) reported higher alcohol use between May 4 and May 10.
Canadians were also more likely to dip into chip bowls while enjoying their beverages. Almost one in three respondents (27 per cent) said that they were eating more junk food or sweets during the first survey. That proportion rose to 35 per cent during the second survey.
These trends held true for both men and women, as well as for younger and older Canadians.
These findings against the backdrop of other large findings that show about three in 10 Canadians (29 per cent) said that they had not been in contact with anybody outside their household during the past seven days and 32 per cent said that they had been in close contact with three people or fewer.
In other words, Canadians have been following social distancing rules, but at a growing expense of their psychological and physiological health.
Finally, the survey more than suggests that the uncertain economic picture is one of, if not the major contributing factor to rising anxiety levels, findings that have also appeared elsewhere.
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