More Than Half Of Young Women In Quebec Experienced Anxiety And Depression

The mental health crisis fostered by the uncertainty and isolation of COVID-19 is not abating in one of Canada’s most populous provinces. Survey results published by the Université de Sherbrooke and Centre Intégré Universitaire De Santé Et De Services Sociaux de l’Estrie (CIUSSS) shows that young Quebecers possess anxiety and depression at alarming rates on average, which is causing concern among health authorities. While the worst of the pandemic has passed, the damage remains deep.

For this survey, six themes were addressed: psychological health, optimism, substance use, attraction to school, work-study balance and the perceived impacts of the pandemic on different spheres of life. In a second step, participants were asked how they envisage a return to normal. This part of the survey also made it possible to draw up a list of possible solutions to better inform future decisions.

In collaboration with several partners, the survey sought to update the portrait of the psychological health of young people aged 12 to 25. What emerged from this comprehensive portrait—in which nearly 18,000 from 64 schools participated—was downright horrifying:

Among the respondents aged 12 to 25, over half (52%) of girls in high school and 56% of girls in graduate school show symptoms of anxiety or depression. And these disturbing statistics are not just limited to passing ideas that fade away with time.

I have been measuring for about three years that one in two young people has levels of symptoms compatible with anxiety or depression. The first time I thought it was a mistake. No, no, it really is, because our young people are still very close to their emotions. I think that should be welcomed. They are not shy to say openly that they cry often, are discouraged, anxious, sleep badly, etc.

Dr. Mélissa Généreux, Faculty professor of medicine, l’Université de Sherbrooke told Le Devoir

Around 10% of young people say they feel this deep malaise more than half the time—which includes 14% for girls out of the survey population. While at least one in four young people thought they would be better off, or thought about hurting themselves in the last two weeks.

Given that so many young people have moderate to severe mental health symptoms of anxiety or depression—and that depression rates continue climbing post-COVID—health officials believe there is a need to act quickly. This phenomenon has been on the rise for a year, especially for CEGEP students (schools surveyed in Quebec).

Notably, since the beginning of the pandemic, youth vaping appears to be declining, while excessive alcohol consumption has been on the rise. This is contrary to some statistics published in the U.S. which show the opposite.

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