Survey shows 52% of Canadians feel anxious about return to ‘normal’ after COVID-19

Survey shows 52% of Canadians feel anxious about return to ‘normal’ after COVID-19

Of respondents from Saskatchewan and Manitoba, 11 per cent reported a high level of anxiety and 46 per cent reported some level of anxiety.

Author of the article:

The Canadian Press

The Canadian Press

Stephanie Taylor

The marquee in front of the Broadway Theatre reads
The marquee in front of the Broadway Theatre reads “Wear a mask, protect each other.” Photo taken in Saskatoon on May 17, 2021. Photo by Matt Smith /Saskatoon StarPhoenix

OTTAWA — More than half of Canadians feel anxious about going back to the way life was before it was turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic, a new survey shows.

Respondents were asked whether returning to what life was like before the novel coronavirus was a source of anxiety for them, given how governments are announcing plans to reopen after more than a year of telling people to stay home. Data shows 1,647 Canadians responded to a web survey from May 21 to 23, which cannot be assigned a margin of error because it was done online.

The results show 52 per cent of those who responded reported feeling either a high level (11 per cent) or some level of anxiety (41 per cent), with those aged 18 to 24 showing the highest levels of unease at 68 per cent.

Of respondents from Saskatchewan and Manitoba, 11 per cent reported a high level of anxiety and 46 per cent reported some level of anxiety. As well, 27 per cent from Saskatchewan and Manitoba reported “not really any anxiety” (compared to 30 per cent nationally) and 16 per cent said they were feeling absolutely no anxiety (compared to 18 per cent nationally).

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Leger asked the question for a study done in collaboration with the Association for Canadian Studies.

“Maybe some of it is related to work, maybe some of it is related to, ‘When we actually go back to normal, will it be safe? Will I feel comfortable around somebody not wearing a mask anymore?”‘ said Christian Bourque, executive vice-president of the polling and marketing research firm Leger.

For others, he said, it could come down to thinking like, “Oh God, I have to invite the in-laws again.”

“There’s something about this new life during the pandemic that people actually sort of grew into, and potentially, sort of, maybe like,” Bourque said.

The findings come as vaccines that protect against COVID-19 go into the arms of more Canadians, thanks to a steadier flow of federal shipments arriving than seen early in the year. With more inoculations comes planning from provinces and federal advice about when daily activities, like playing sports outside and eating at a restaurant, can be allowed again, along with kids going back to the classroom.

Some provinces, including Saskatchewan, have outlined plans to ease health restrictions through spring and summer in stages, according to how many people are vaccinated against COVID-19.

Step 1 of Saskatchewan’s reopening plan begins May 30, followed by the second step on June 20. Come May 30, Saskatchewan residents will be able to gather indoors without masks or other safety precautions in groups of up to 10 people. Groups of up to 150 people will be able to gather outdoors and outdoor sports leagues will be able to resume play with some precautions.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and federal officials are also fielding questions about how much longer the Canada-U.S. border will remain closed and what documentation Canadians might need to travel abroad, as well as vice versa for those entering the country.

Bourque suggested Leger’s research shows those in power would be wise to take a slower approach to reopening society, even as a post-COVID Canada seems to grow closer on the horizon.

When asked if governments should lift all restrictions related to COVID-19 right now, 81 per cent of those surveyed nationally said no (compared to 79 per cent in Saskatchewan and Manitoba), 15 per cent said yes (compared to 17 per cent in Saskatchewan and Manitoba) and four per cent said they did not know (the same number as those surveyed in Saskatchewan and Manitoba).

“I would be extremely careful as to not sound over-joyous because that’s not the sentiment right now among Canadians,” Bourque said.

As for why young adults report feeling more anxious than other age groups about a return to normal, Bourque said it could be related to them being “the anxiety generation.”

Close to half of younger Canadians generally feel they suffer from some form of anxiety, he said, and so have more awareness of it and a greater willingness to name it than older residents.

Plus, for some in their 20s, their social life could be what makes them anxious.

“Potentially for younger Canadians who maybe have felt some form of isolation during the pandemic are probably weary about how will it be, how do I go back to the way things were,” said Bourque.

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“‘I was not that popular before the pandemic, what will happen to me now?’ There might be a lot of that.”

— With Saskatoon StarPhoenix files

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