'Persons who are isolated, bored, stressed… may use these products in the hopes of easing these feelings'
Canadians with lower self-perceived mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic are more likely to increase their use of cannabis, alcohol and tobacco, according to Statistics Canada.
Among those who rated their mental health as fair or poor, 16.8 per cent upped their cannabis use, 27.6 per cent upped their alcohol intake and 8.1 per cent upped their use of tobacco.
In contrast, among people with excellent, very good or good self-perceived mental health, the increases are 4.2 per cent, 11.3 per cent and 2.3 per cent, respectively.
“The negative relationship between substance use and mental health is well established,” says Statistics Canada. “Persons who are isolated, bored, stressed and experiencing significant disruptions to their normal ways of life – as is the case for most Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic – may use cannabis, alcohol and tobacco products in the hopes of easing these feelings.”
Overall, few Canadians are increasing their consumption of cannabis (6.5 per cent), alcohol (14 per cent) and tobacco (3.3 per cent) amid the pandemic.
However, it may also be that people with worse mental health are more likely to use substances compared to others, says Statistics Canada. Nearly two in five (36.2 per cent) of cannabis consumers say their mental state is fair or poor while 15.1 per cent say it is excellent, very good or good. There are also 22.3 per cent among heavy drinkers who have a lower perspective of their mental health compared to 20.1 per cent with a higher perspective. Among cigarette smokers, 31.1 per cent rated their mental health as fair or poor while 15.2 per cent rated it as excellent, very good or good.
Canadians’ mental stress change score increased considerably in March, according to a separate Morneau Shepell survey, and amidst the crisis of the COVID-19, many Canadians are experiencing increased levels of mental health issues, according to another survey.
Eighty-five per cent of Canadians who have access to employee benefits believe benefit plans should offer virtual care benefits for both mental and physical health needs, according to a separate study.