It’s been more than two years since the start of the pandemic, and yet new data shows that almost a quarter of Canadians still report high levels of anxiety – figures largely unchanged since 2020.
Researchers at the University of Waterloo looked at survey data collected by Mental Health Research Canada. The survey found that 23% of Canadians struggle with high anxiety, while 15% suffer from high depression.
“Before the pandemic, these levels were around four or five percent. That’s a four or five times increase, so it’s concerning,” Gustavo Betini, a doctoral student at the University of Waterloo, who has studied the long-term mental health impacts of COVID-19, CTV News Channel told Saturday.
Betini says it’s particularly concerning that even with high levels of vaccination and few remaining COVID-19 restrictions in Canada, rates of anxiety and depression have changed very little since the survey began in April 2020.
“It’s surprising to us that these levels… haven’t changed since 2020, when we started this survey. So that’s concerning for the future,” he said.
Younger Canadians and people from marginalized groups, like the LGBTQ2S+ community, are more likely to face high levels of pandemic-induced anxiety and depression, Betini says.
“One thing we see very often is that young adults struggle a bit more than the general population. The same goes for women, especially women with young children and health care providers. health, and members of the LGBTQ+ community,” Betini says.
LONG COVID PATIENTS FACE GREATER MENTAL HEALTH CHALLENGES
For those who are infected with the virus and show long-term symptoms of COVID-19, controlling their mental health can be even more difficult.
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has documented reports of over 100 potential long-term COVID symptoms. According to the PHAC, the most common are fatigue, memory problems, anxiety, depression and even post-traumatic stress disorder.
At the University of Toronto, Dr. Roger McIntyre, professor of psychiatry and pharmacology, led a trial to better understand how long COVID affects the brain.
“What we’re trying to do is better understand what’s going on in the brains of people who have this very debilitating, very complex post-COVID syndrome,” he told CTV News Channel on Saturday.
McIntrye says inflammation due to an immune response to exposure to the virus may be one of the culprits when it comes to determining why some people have long COVID symptoms. He says his trial is also testing a treatment that affects the immune system, which may also benefit
“the aspects of brain fog and fatigue that are so pervasive in this condition.”
It is not known how many people are affected by long symptoms of COVID. Early data from the World Health Organization showed that 10-20% of people infected with the virus could become COVID long-haulers, but Tam said Friday that more recent research indicates it could actually be as high as 50 percent.
But in the absence of treatment options, McIntyre says at this time, prevention through vaccination is the most important tool for preventing long-lasting COVID symptoms.
“The best treatment is always prevention. And we have a signal in our literature that tells us if you get vaccinated…the likelihood of you having long COVID may be less. The severity of long COVID may be less,” did he declare. “As we think about protecting ourselves, the vaccine is clearly an important tool for us.”
With files from The Canadian Press