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Thomas StorringDirector – Economics and Statistics
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September 24, 2021

Statistics Canada introduced a new survey in spring 2021 called the Canadian Social Survey (CSS). The goal is to understand social issues more rapidly by collecting information on relevant social issues every three months. Data collected from April to June 2021 focus on Canadians and their personal experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. Data collection coincided with pandemic closures and public health restrictions resulting from the third wave across most provinces. 

Results show that one-quarter of Canadians experiences high levels of stress, indicating that they found most days quite a bit or extremely stressful. Women (27%) were more likely to report higher stress levels than men (23%). These trends were also observed before the onset of the pandemic. Statistics Canada notes that a previous study from May 2020 found women were more likely than men to report feeling stressed and having lower levels of mental health.

Stress also varied by age group, with Canadians aged 35 to 44 most likely to report finding most days quite stressful or extremely stressful (36%) compared to those aged 45 to 54 (30%) and those aged 25 to 34 (29%). The survey also found that those living with children did experience higher levels of daily stress, with those living with children under the age of 15 more likely to indicate higher stress (31%) than those not living with children (22%). Stress levels did not vary with marital status. 

LGBTQ2+ Canadians were more likely to report higher stress levels (35%) than non-LGBTQ2+ individuals (24%). Statistics Canada notes that these groups were already more likely to experience poorer mental health outcomes before the pandemic. Among LGBTQ2+ individuals, 52% reported somewhat or much worse stress levels now than before the pandemic, compared to 46% of non-LGBTQ2+ individuals. 

Overall, 46% of Canadians indicated that their perceived stress level was somewhat or much worse than it was prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Women (49%) reported worsening stress levels at a slightly higher rate than men (44%). Those living with children under 15 were also more likely to see their stress levels rise (54%) compared to those who lived without children (43%). This was more evident for women, as 57% of women who lived with young children reported worsening stress levels compared to 50% of men living with young children. 

By age, those aged 25 to 34 (51%) and aged 35 to 44 (55%) were more likely to report that their stress levels had gone up compared to before the pandemic. Those aged 60 and older most frequently reported that their stress level had remained the same (60%).

The survey also found that 18% of Canadians aged 25 to 44 now wanted to have a child later than previously planned, due to the pandemic. Another 14% indicators wanting fewer children than before. Those who were not in a couple (18%) were more likely than those who were married or common-law (12%) to indicate that they wanted fewer children because of the pandemic. In contrast, 7% of Canadians aged 25 to 44 indicated they wanted to have children sooner, while 4% indicated they wanted more children than previously planned. Future research is planned to examine how the pandemic may have influenced fertility rates.

Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Social Survey: COVID-19 and well-being