Young Canadians more anxious, less likely to adhere to social distancing, poll says

4 months ago 36
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A new Angus Reid Institute poll suggests younger Canadians are more likely to feel anxious or worn out and less likely to adhere to social distancing guidelines than other demographics, following three months of federally-imposed coronavirus restrictions.

The poll, which was released on Monday, surveyed 1,510 Canadians online between June 8-10. It found those between the ages of 18 and 34 were least likely to follow recommended social distancing measures outlined by the government.

It noted that while 70 per cent of those surveyed said they were still rigorously washing their hands and 66 per cent still avoided handshakes and hugs, only 36 per cent said they were keeping away from public spaces.

“Just 36 per cent of Canadians now say they are staying away from public spaces as much as they were in the early days of the outbreak, while 56 per cent are continuing to keep extra space from others as much as they were earlier this spring, despite it being one of the key aspects in preventing community transmission of the disease,” the poll read.

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James Danckert, a professor at the University of Waterloo, pointed to boredom as the key predictor of whether or not people would stick with social distancing protocols.

Boredom is highly correlated with anxiety and associated with lower levels of self control, he said, which is more prevalent in teenagers and those entering their early-to-mid 20s.

“Younger people are more prone to boredom. They don’t have necessarily the full suite of skills that are necessary to self-regulate and avoid or at least engage in optimal behaviours that would maintain social distancing,” said Danckert.

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“It’s probably fairly understandable that younger people are having trouble maintaining those kinds of protocols.”

Despite feeling the emotional effects of the pandemic more than their older counterparts, findings showed younger demographics were less likely to reach out if they’re feeling unwell.

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Younger women were most likely to say they felt worn out or anxious at 43 and 44 per cent, respectively. Those numbers dipped significantly in men, where only 25 per cent reported feeling anxious and 34 per cent said they were feeling fatigued.

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Nearly one in five male respondents aged 18-34 said they were most likely to feel depressed, a visible contrast from 10 per cent of men aged 55 years who said they felt depressed and the 23 per cent of older male Canadians who reported feeling optimistic.

In comparison, only 11 per cent of younger men and women said they felt optimistic.

Shachi Kurl, executive director at the Angus Reid Institute, told Global News the results are indicative of the impact the pandemic has been having on mental health.

“A key takeaway here is that Canadians are, not surprisingly, feeling the exhaustion of three months of a complete, sudden and total change in the way they live their lives — everything from how they socialize to how they care for family, to how they eat, to how they work,” she said.

“In many cases, Canadians are now starting to just throw up their hands and say, ‘you know what, I’m worn out, I’m fatigued. I’m exhausted by this.'”

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The survey found a heavy correlation between job loss and anxiety. Nearly three out of ten respondents said they were either laid off or were subject to reduced work hours during the pandemic.

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Researchers concluded their level of anxiety and worry was “notably higher than those who have not lost any work” when compared to Canadians who faced little to no changes in their work schedules.

Kurl said younger people, who are more likely to work in hospitality, retail or the service industry at bars or restaurants were disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

“You’re not someone who’s been working from home,” she said of Canadians in non-work-from-home fields.

“For retirees in general, aside from the heightened concern over their vulnerability to getting sick, their lives haven’t changed as much as lives have changed for younger people, and the loss of work really does draw that anxiety.”

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© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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