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Fears about the pandemic, climate change worsening anxiety in B.C.: study

Mental health decline most noted in vulnerable populations, says UBC survey
A UBC survey finds that British Columbians are fearful that the pandemic will never end, with climate change only exacerbating anxiety. (Credit: Christopher Catbagan on Unsplash)

Many British Columbians are finding themselves worried that the pandemic will never cease – and those concerns, coupled with the impacts climate change has had on the province in the past year, are harming people’s mental wellness.

That’s according to a UBC study, which has been looking at mental health in the province over the years, in partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association.

The latest survey, released Tuesday (March 1), found that 65 per cent of B.C. respondents are concerned about new strains of COVID-19, with 48 per cent worried about the pandemic combined with the climate crisis.

Across Canada, 57 per cent said they feel fearful. A total of 3,030 people 18 and older were surveyed in December 2021.

“With the heat domes and atmospheric rivers B.C. experienced in 2021, there was more awareness of climate crisis effects compounding mental health struggles alongside the pandemic,” said UBC nursing professor Emily Jenkins.

“All these different issues were colliding and we wanted to account for that.”

Results highlight inequities in how different groups of people are affected by the pandemic, said Jenkins. Worsening mental health was most common in those who are unemployed, those with pre-existing mental health conditions, members of the LGBTQ2+ community, students and those with disabilities.

Equitable access to treatment and services, addressing societal issues that cause inequity and sustaining investment in mitigation efforts are ways to address barriers to improving mental health in society, added Jenkins.

On a positive note, 76 per cent of respondents in B.C. reported they were coping very well or fairly well with stress by exercising or going for a walk.

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