Stress from the pandemic’s lockdown combined with long-term unemployment are likely to cause heightened levels of mental health distress: Deloitte
While governments are focusing on the immediate health and economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, a new report from Deloitte is warning of the need to address the “Human Crisis” by identifying what may be the mental health burden in Canada associated with COVID-19.
The report’s findings illustrate that Canada could see an up to a 2.6-fold increase in visits to mental health practitioners and up to a 20 percent increase in antidepressant prescriptions, resulting in a strain on mental health clinics and increased demand on professionals from coast to coast. Visits to health professionals could reach 10.7 million annually, up from 4.1 million. Canada must start to prepare now for COVID-19’s “Third-Order” Crisis: The Human One.
Published today, Deloitte’s Uncovering the hidden iceberg: Why the human impact of COVID-19 could be a third crisis report explores the human and social impact of natural disasters and periods of economic hardship, and how these events have contributed to people’s mental health once the public health and economic crises have subsided.
This report leverages data from the Fort McMurray Wildfire (2016), along with the 1990 and 2008 recessions in Canada, which revealed increased incidences of mental health issues, poorer educational outcomes, an increase in substance abuse and crime, and uses these past events to provide scenarios of the potential human impact of COVID-19. Based on the experience of previous, smaller-scale Canadian disasters, the impacts of coronavirus on people may be lasting and significant.
Stress from the pandemic’s lockdown combined with long-term unemployment are likely to cause heightened levels of mental health distress
- The global and Canadian economies are in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression. The collapse in economic output and spike in unemployment have been swifter than ever before.
- Long-term unemployment is often described as one of the most important carriers of economic distress. During a recession, unemployed workers in between jobs can experience much longer unemployment spells along with financial hardship and increased stress levels. The impact is not limited to the individual, but extends to her or his household; membership in a household with severe material deprivation increases the probability of reporting poor health by between 70 percent and 140 percent
- In both the 1990-1991 and 2008-2009 recessions, it took over a decade for the long-term unemployment/unemployment levels ratio to return to its pre-recession levels.
- During the 2008-09 financial crisis (in Spain), long-term unemployment (unemployed for 12–23 months) increased the probability of self-reporting poor health outcomes from 45 percent to 67 percent, and very long-term unemployment (24 to 48 months) increased this probability further from 78 percent to 132 percent when compared to employed individuals.
Women at greatest risk to the human impacts of COVID-19
- Disasters and recessions impose different burdens on different segments of the population, this is especially troubling in the context of gender inequality. Women are at the epicentre of the human impact of COVID-19. About 96 percent of job losses due to COVID-19 and the associated lockdowns have been in the relatively low-paying retail and service industry, compared to only 25 percent during the 2008 recession. In the current COVID-19 economic downturn about two out of three (68 percent) jobs lost were held by women, compared to only 18 percent during the 2008 recession.
- Before the current disaster hit - women, and especially single-parent women, were among those at the greatest risk of being economically vulnerable with single moms exhibiting the highest incidence of low income at 17 percent.
- From past references, Canadian women were more likely to self-report mental health conditions than men, yet less likely to report their mental health needs to be fully met.
How Canada can best prepare for the Human Impact Crisis:
For governments, this means getting ready and starting to prepare now. Governments can act as key intermediaries by facilitating the connection between mental health practitioners and patients via internet, helplines, or apps. Governments are also uniquely placed to help people find resources given their wide front-line network of services.
For existing mental health clinics, this means adopting or accelerating their digital presence – the current situation has shown it is possible to meet a large share of mental health needs through cost-effective digital channels, such as videoconferencing, and apps.
For insurers, this may be the right time to review processes to more efficiently accommodate a larger number of transactions, for example, by extending direct reimbursement to mental health service providers and to consider streamlining costs and operations to face a larger than expected volume of claims for mental health services.
Megan Stangl, Consultant
C: +1 647 801 0120