Anxiety, Depression Increasing With Fear of Job Losses, Cuts

By Misty Harris, Canwest News ServiceMay 3, 2009

More than four in 10 employed Canadians are worried they will lose their jobs, according to a new national snapshot of Canadians’ mental health.

The survey shows 36% of working adults feel more stressed now than they did a year ago — a number that climbs as high as 40% in Ontario, and 38% in B.C.
— while one in three are experiencing trouble sleeping, overall anxiety, and suffering such ailments as muscle aches, physical tension and headaches.

Of the 1,062 people polled, more than half — 54% — blamed the recession for having upset their work-life balance.

“In terms of depth and sharpness, I’ve not seen anything like this during my career,” says Taylor Alexander, CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association.

“People are really hurting. We can’t sweep it under the carpet and maintain a business-as-usual attitude.”

According to the survey, which was conducted between March 30 and April 15 for Desjardins Financial Security, 47% of Canadians expect the recession to last more than a year.

As a result, a vast majority — 83% –are paying more attention to their finances and spending habits, while 43% are worried about losing their job.

“We started to get alarmed about this situation a year ago, when the downturn hit the U.S.,” says Alexander. “(America) was the canary in the coal mine as far as the impact the economic crisis would have on mental health.”

The findings come as no surprise to Mark LaRouche, who, as a frontline worker in the mental health field, has seen intakes rise since the crisis hit last fall.

“When you have the normal, day-to-day stressors, which people already have a difficult time coping with, then throw in a couple of curveballs like Chrysler going bankrupt, you see this (outcome),” says LaRouche, who works in Sundridge, Ont.

“Anxiety and depression have been the most common . . . (but there is also) aches and pains, strains, difficulty sleeping, irritability, lack of appetite or increase in appetite.”

Natalie Turko-Norton, a single mother from Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Que., says she’s has been visited by such “stress-related maladies” as chronic insomnia and anxiety since the recession hit, noting that even interactions with family members have been fraught with tension.

“It’s been a difficult time,” says Turko-Norton, who recently started a new job as an administrative assistant.

“We’ve been living on a shoestring budget.”

According to Desjardins, mental health claims are now the fastest growing category for days lost to disability in Canada.

A spokeswoman for the organization, which supplies health insurance and group benefits, says the last recession saw an increase in both short-term disability claims and employee absenteeism.

“If you’re not coping well and your productivity is reduced, or you have to take time off work, certainly that has an impact on the organization’s bottom line,” says Michele Nowski, director of Desjardins’ disability claims.

“Each of us as individuals has a responsibility for our own health, both physical and mental.”

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