Poll shows little improvement in mental health, despite vaccine optimism

Mental issues 'on the rise'

A new poll from Insights West and Pacific Blue Cross reveals a dramatic rise in mental issues in British Columbia over the past year.

"A significant number of B.C. residents are experiencing more worry, 62 per cent, stress, 60 per cent, anxiety, 59 per cent, and boredom, 59 per cent, compared to pre-pandemic levels, and those experiencing more loneliness has increased 10 percentage points since September," according to Insights West.

The poll also asked British Columbians about the state of their overall mental health compared to the fall, and there is surprisingly little improvement despite the hope of vaccinations on the horizon.

“The pandemic has had a dramatic impact on the mental health and well-being of British Columbians that is proving to be wider reaching than the economic toll that we’ve experienced” says Steve Mossop, president of Insights West. “The extent to which BC residents are feeling down has been widespread, although it seems that the vaccine is giving people hope that things will improve.”

When asked about the September to December 2020 time period, the majority, 57 per cent of B.C. residents, consider their mental health to be ‘excellent’, 8 per cent, ‘very good’, 17 per cent or ‘good’, 32 per cent.

Those numbers are significantly different than pre-pandemic when 81 per cent considered their mental health to be positive.

There is potentially some good news in the future, as 25 per cent think their mental health will improve in the next several weeks, and that increases to 42 per cent when the timeframe is expanded to the next several months.

"Compared to April and September research conducted by Insights West and Pacific Blue Cross, some results are slightly better now, but the overall direction when it comes to the mental health of British Columbians is still concerning."

Conversely, with the exception of gratitude, positive mental health emotions are being felt far less often by the vast majority of residents. Only 23 per cent are feeling more hopeful, 16 per cent more confident, 15 per cent more contented, and 13 per cent more excited than usual whereas far more are feeling less hopeful, 39 per cent, less confident 34 per cent, less contented, 39 per cent, and less excited, 46 per cent. Nearly half of respondents, 49 per cent are feeling more gratitude than they were feeling prior to the start of the pandemic.

The poll also looked at what we're doing to stay busy and healthy.

British Columbians are divided between those who are exercising more, 29 per cent, versus those who are exercising less, 34 per cent, since the pandemic began. Home cooking has exploded during the pandemic with 32 per cent saying they are eating better compared to pre-pandemic.

Perhaps not surprisingly alcohol and cannabis consumption have risen since the pandemic began, with 30 per cent, consuming more, and fewer, 22 per cent consuming less. Sleep patterns have also been disrupted, with one-third saying they are experiencing poorer quality sleep. A slightly larger number, 39 per cent, feel they are less connected with friends or family.

There has also been a shift away from in-person services and towards virtual/online/phone mental services during the pandemic. "In-person psychiatrist/ psychologist/ counselling services has dropped and conversely the virtual use of these services has increased."

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