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The impact of COVID-19 on women’s mental health is increasing: CAMH study

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According to a CAMH survey, women experience a higher rate of anxiety than men. (Andrii Zastrozhnov / Adobe Stock)

Nadine Yousif, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Toronto Star-Pandemic had a disproportionate impact on women’s mental health in late September. Women show high levels of anxiety for the first time in months, according to a new survey.

According to experts, this result reflects growing anxiety surrounding the family, bringing the child’s return to school and the permanent gender role of having women responsible for children and home care to the workplace. Is affecting the return of.

A survey of 1,003 adults across Canada was conducted from September 18-22 by the Center for Poisoning and Mental Health and the automated survey platform Delvinia. The percentage of women surveyed said they were more anxious than just 17 percent of men.

The findings also show that 27% of respondents with children under the age of 18 reported having moderate or severe anxiety.

Women are more anxious, 22% report heavy drinking (metric CAMH used in studies to measure levels of substance abuse), while men have a higher percentage of heavy drinking, 28 % Is reported.

Overall, one in four (or 25%) Canadians have reported recent heavy drinking incidents since the outbreak of the pandemic. This is a disturbing trend, according to doctors. In 2018, 19% of Canadians reported heavy drinking, according to Statistics Canada.

“People are very stressed,” said CAMH psychiatrist Dr. David Gratzer, adding that they reflect the struggle of his own patients. “Many people are choosing coping mechanisms that can annoy them in the future,” he said, like alcohol and cannabis.

Pandemic Impact on Mental Health

The CAMH study is part of a larger study of how COVID-19 affects Canadian mental health, with similar surveys being conducted on a regular basis throughout the pandemic and its changing impact. Is being measured.

A previous survey conducted in July showed that the overall level of anxiety in the general population was about 19%. That number jumped to 21 percent in September.

CAMH scientist Tara Elton-Marshall said the findings also show an increase in the number of people who are generally worried about COVID-19 infection. Twenty-five percent of September respondents said they were afraid of being infected with the virus, compared to 20% in July. .. This is consistent with the increasing number of cases nationwide.

Among women, the level of anxiety was about 30 percent in May. It declined after June and remained at 23% during the summer.

However, September showed an increase in the number of anxieties that had not been seen since June.

Ramona Alasia, a professor of social work at the University of Toronto and chairman of Child & Family Margaret and Wallace McCain, said the findings on women’s mental health were general anxiety during pandemics like COVID-19 and SARS. He said it was consistent with international research on levels. H1N1 in 2003, H1N1 in 2009.

“A pandemic affects people’s family lives,” Alaggia said. “… and we know that women generally undertake more domestic and emotional work.”

Alaggia added that the impact of a pandemic is a gender issue. Women often earn less than their male partners, so they often experience the additional responsibility of ensuring that safety measures such as wearing masks and homeschooling are taken.

Charmaine Williams, a professor at the Faculty of Social Welfare, said these struggles were exacerbated by colored women.

Williams said this is evident in the racial minority community and the women within it facing higher levels of risk and illness. Colored races are more likely to be infected with COVID-19, especially in the Greater Toronto Area.

“The (health) social determinants that influence outcomes such as anxiety are already in line with color-unfavorable women,” says self-isolation and physical distance from others in Toronto. Williams, who is likely to live in a dense home, is not an option.

They are also likely to work in volatile or dangerous sectors such as the healthcare and services industries, Williams added. Due to income inequality, colored women are less likely to have the resources to buy personal protective equipment or deliver groceries, for example, both of which provide greater peace of mind.

Required solution

In results of mental health similar to previous pandemics, Alaggia added that COVID-19 has a wider impact on North America, but today’s struggle shows that society has not learned much from SARS or H1N1. Said that.

But she finds that ongoing research on women’s mental health is a solution like creating a national high-quality, affordable childcare plan to ensure that more women return to the workforce. He said he wanted to be connected.

“If women can do that, their anxiety is reduced because they are contributing, the children are taken care of, and it does not affect the family income of their household,” Alaggia says. I did.

According to Williams, the results also show the need for long-term income support and policies to promote workplace stability, such as creating and maintaining more full-time jobs and providing paid sick leave as much as possible. I will.

CAMH studies show that anxiety levels are rising overall, but people vary to cope with increased stress, such as walking, exercising, and staying connected with friends and family. It has also become clear that they are using healthy coping mechanisms.

Gratzer said it’s good to follow these habits when the level of anxiety rises. However, he added that it is important to monitor overall mental health symptoms as the pandemic continues and seek medical assistance immediately when critical levels are reached.

“If you’re experiencing suicidal ideation, it’s emergency care, with or without a pandemic,” he said.

If you are thinking of suicide or know someone, there is help. Resources are available online. www.crisisservicescanada.ca Alternatively, you can connect to the National Suicide Prevention Helpline at 1-833-456-4566.

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