In addition to threatening Canadians’ health, the pandemic has increased many people’s financial and mental stress, two recent polls suggest.
Among a sample of 1,510 Canadians (who were surveyed online in August on behalf of Toronto-based Credit Counselling Canada), four in 10 said their mental health had worsened since the pandemic began because of their financial situations. Also, about one-third (32%) said their mental health had been negatively affected by job insecurity, such as reduced hours or layoffs.
Forty-four per cent said trying to keep up with household expenses had negatively affected their mental health, and one-third said trying to keep up with consumer debt payments had done so.
The struggle with debt could become worse for some, based on the results of a separate online poll. The latest consumer debt index from insolvency trustee MNP Ltd., based on data collected in September from 2,001 Canadians, suggested many Canadians were considering borrowing more to make ends meet.
Over half of those surveyed (58%) said they were at least somewhat likely to borrow more before year’s end, including 37% who said they were leaning toward using a credit card that already carries a balance.
The index — which measures Canadians’ financial situations and attitudes toward consumer debt — dropped two points to 95 compared with the previous quarter. (A lower score means Canadians felt less positive about their finances; still, the index has returned to pre-pandemic levels since hitting an all-time low in December 2020.)
On a more positive note, the Credit Counselling Canada poll suggested that the pandemic motivated families to discuss their finances.
Just under half of respondents who were parents (46%) said they’ve used the pandemic as a teachable moment to discuss with children financial management, including topics such as debt, employment and disposable income.
The same proportion of respondents were concerned that their children’s lack of employment options were affecting their children’s mental health.
Last month, StatsCan said that, in 2020, lower-income households experienced the biggest reductions in debt and largest increases in disposable income during the pandemic, amid extensive government support measures.
The polling industry’s professional body, the Canadian Research Insights Council, says online surveys can’t be assigned a margin of error because they don’t randomly sample the population.