Two-thirds of younger women in Ontario are living with a mental health condition, a new survey commissioned by the Ontario Association of Social Workers has found.
The survey of 1,265 adults found that 44 per cent of respondents either have a diagnosed mental health condition or believe that they are living with an undiagnosed mental health condition.
But among younger women ages 18 to 35, the percentage of respondents who said that they were dealing with mental health challenges was much higher.
Approximately 66 per cent of that group said that they had a diagnosed or undiagnosed mental health condition.
Men in that age group were also more likely to report mental health challenges but not to the same extent. About 57 per cent of that group reported living with a mental health condition.
The release of the survey coincides with International Women’s Day, which is a global movement intended to celebrate women’s achievements and push for gender parity.
“It’s an alarming situation that makes me want to sit up and take notice and hope that the rest of the country is doing the same because women in particular were certainly very impacted by many issues stemming out of the pandemic, including sadness, loneliness, anxiety, isolation and depression,” Deepy Sur, CEO of the Ontario Association of Social Workers, told CP24.com. “I worry that if we don’t find a way to address this we’re really affecting adults and women in particular.”
The survey shows that a lower proportion of older Ontarians are living with a mental health condition – only about 31 per cent for women 55 and up and 28 per cent for men in the same age cohort.
Among middle-aged Ontarians between the ages of 35 and 54, meanwhile, a slight majority of women (51 per cent) said that they were living with a mental health condition. That is compared to 49 per cent among men in the same age cohort.
The survey also pointed to a significant need for mental health supports coming out of the pandemic.
Approximately 31 per cent of all respondents said that they had accessed mental health supports in the last year while another 10 per cent said that they tried to access supports but were unable to do so.
Among those unable to access supports, the most commonly cited reasons for not getting help were long wait lists (60 per cent), high costs (38 per cent) and the lack of a referral from a family doctor (33 per cent).
Younger women were more likely to access help (about 44 per cent reported doing so in the last year) compared to other age and gender cohorts.
But a higher percentage of that group also reported being unable to get the help they needed (20 per cent) and expressed frustrations with navigating the system (57 per cent).
“I think for a long time now we’ve seen a lot of disparity between how women and men experience mental health. We know that it’s very difficult to access support, especially with stigma. But for women in particular there’s increased complications with litigious and contentious issues around pay equity and difficulty managing a home and discrimination, violence, hate,” Sur told CP24.com. “There is a lot of stressors that come out of identifying as a woman and that really puts us at risk of higher mental health issues, stressors, or even burnout. It can be extremely worrisome.”
The survey was conducted by Innovative Research Group between Feb. 17 and 20th using an online panel. No margin of error can be assigned due to the fact that the survey did not use a random probability-based sample.