Toronto, ON, October 7th, 2020 —Much has been written about how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting Canadians, with layoffs, recessions, and the economy filling the airwaves and newspapers. But how much attention is being paid to the mental toll Canadians are suffering? A new poll conducted by Ipsos on behalf of RBC Insurance shows that Canadians who are employed or have recently been laid off as a result of the pandemic (referred to hereafter as working Canadians) have seen their mental and financial health suffer in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to gain insight as to how Canadians will weather the coming months, Ipsos and RBC Insurance investigated the role insurance coverage plays in supporting working Canadians, as well as how likely Canadians are to look online for support in our new socially distanced reality.
Majority of Working Canadians are Insured, but Women and Young People Lag Behind
Working Canadians were asked a series of questions pertaining to their insurance coverage, their mental, physical, and financial health, and their likelihood to engage in virtual care programs for a variety of health needs. The survey found the majority of Canadians (75%) have some kind of insurance coverage. The most common kind of coverage for employed Canadians are benefits through their employer, with 34% having coverage this way. A further 26% have chosen to purchase their own insurance coverage, while just over one in ten have a combination of private and group benefits (16%).
While the overall coverage rate is strong, the statistic conceals some demographic variation. Women and young Canadians (aged 18-34) in particular are the most vulnerable populations, being significantly more likely to have no insurance of any kind (women 28% vs. 21% men; 18-34 34% vs. 19% 35-54, 22% 55+). While it may be that the decision to forego insurance coverage is merely a personal choice meant to cut costs, the data show that the presence or absence of insurance coverage has larger impacts on a person’s overall wellbeing.
Working Canadians with Insurance More Likely to Feel Mentally and Financially Well, While Uninsured Less Positive
When asked about their lives, a majority of working Canadians indicate that they feel positively (rated excellent or good) on almost all metrics covered in the survey including overall wellbeing (64%), opinion of their employer (63%), mental health (62%), job satisfaction (62%), and physical health (59%), with only financial health seeing a majority neutral or negative perception (45% positive). While it may seem unsurprising in a tumultuous year like 2020 that working Canadians feel less mentally well than the year previous (62% excellent/good, -4 pts from 2019), this shift conceals an important pattern within the data – respondents who have insurance are more likely to rate their mental health as positive.
Working Canadians who have insurance of any kind (private, group, or a combination of the two) are significantly more likely to rate their mental health (insurance coverage 65% vs. 55% no insurance) and financial health (insurance coverage 48% vs. 36% no insurance) as excellent or good. This points to an important relationship between the presence of insurance and wellness, and poses a broader question: as mental health becomes an increasingly discussed issue in the broader social discourse, will insurance coverage also become more important to those struggling?
Working Canadians More Likely to Use Virtual Tools to Support Their Mental Health
Not only has mental health seen greater attention from the news and media during the coronavirus pandemic, but it appears to be increasingly on the minds of working Canadians as they consider how they will navigate the healthcare system in the future. Perhaps a sign of the pressures the pandemic is placing on working Canadians, the use of virtual care, including video chat, web, or telephone-based health support, for mental health purposes has seen a sharp increase in 2020.
Approximately two thirds of Canadians would be very or somewhat likely to use virtual care to consult with a mental health practitioner for challenges they’re facing (67%, up 17 pts since 2019) or for video/telephone counselling for mental health challenges (60%, up 15 pts since 2019). Not only does this show that mental health is becoming an increasingly pertinent issue in 2020, but it points to the idea that Canadians are increasingly willing to seek help virtually for mental health. This may be bolstered by the fact that there has been a consistent willingness to use virtual care for other issues.
When asked about their likelihood to use a virtual care program, three quarters of working Canadians continue to show interest in using such a program to refill their prescriptions (75%, stable with 2019) while seven in ten are likely to use virtual care to consult a doctor for an acute problem like a virus or a rash (71%, up 13 pts from 2019). Its possible that the existing likelihood to use virtual care for prescription refills and increasingly for consulting a doctor for acute problems may help some to take the next step and seek online help for mental health issues as well. In any case, the increase in likelihood to use virtual care for mental health issues provides a glimmer of hope as it indicates that although the pandemic may see more people struggling with their mental health, people are increasingly looking at various ways to seek help for themselves.
About the Study
These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between July 14-16, 2020, on behalf of RBC Insurance. For this survey, a sample of 1,001 employed or recently laid off Canadians aged 18 years and over was interviewed. Weighting was then employed to balance demographics to ensure that the sample's composition reflects that of the adult population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within ±3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all employed or recently laid off Canadian adults been polled. The credibility interval will be wider among subsets of the population. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.
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