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Health Unit releases indirect impacts of COVID-19 survey results

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The pandemic has impacted the mental health of local residents.

That’s according to the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit.

The Health Unit issued a survey earlier this year on the indirect impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on people living in the community. Community partners and the public now have access to the information.

This includes impacts to an individual’s health and well-being due to the restrictions and public health measures put in place to keep people safe, rather than the impacts of being infected with COVID-19.

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The survey was open to the public for responses between January and February 2021, while the province was in lockdown. Key findings include:

  • Most respondents reported signs of worse mental health as a result of the pandemic. These signs included increased feelings of loneliness and isolation, increased stress, and concerns about children’s social and emotional development.
  • Physical well-being was also impacted by the pandemic. Three quarters of respondents reported more recreational screen time, and just over half reported more difficulties sleeping and less physical activity.
  • Alcohol, cannabis and nicotine use increased during the pandemic. The biggest increase in use was seen in alcohol, with thirty per cent of respondents saying they increased the use of alcohol since the start of the pandemic.

This local evidence allows the Health Unit and community service providers to better understand how the pandemic affected residents in our region, so they can plan programs and resources needed to support certain populations.

“For the Health Unit and community partners, it is important know what the impacts on health and wellbeing have been for our residents, and what the needs are to improve overall health,” explains Auburn Larose, Epidemiologist at the Health Unit. “This research, along with the experience and expertise of local community agencies, will inform decision-making that will help local residents.”

The Health Unit has already seen positive results from sharing this data. Community agencies have been given presentations on these findings, which have been used to support local planning efforts.

“Data from this survey was presented to the Muskoka, Nipissing and Parry Sound Child and Youth Planning Table. We will be able to use this data to inform our COVID-19 recovery planning by addressing key issues affecting local families,” explains Andrea Roberts, Chief Executive Officer at Hands TheFamilyHelpNetwork.ca.

The survey results have also been used to address the needs of seniors.

“At the end of November, the Stay on Your Feet coalition held an online seniors’ symposium to learn about the local businesses, services and agencies that can support healthy aging and living independently,” explains Samantha Docherty, Community Health Promoter at the Health Unit. “The survey findings supported the decision on what to include in this symposium. This helped us to ensure we were sharing valuable information, support and solutions to the people who need it.”

The results of the survey are available on the Health Unit’s website at myhealthunit.ca/COVIDImpacts.

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