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February 19, 2021

By Richard Jenkins

Last week happiness in Canada fell to its lowest point since late November. Are Canadians suffering from the winter blues? Is the pandemic taking its toll on our collective happiness? In fact, it is probably a combination of the two as the pandemic has made our winter blues more acute.

January was a challenging month as much of the country was in some form of lockdown, temperatures dropped as winter took hold, and the joy of the holiday season subsided. Our tracking of national happiness finds erosion over the first month of the year. Several provinces (Ontario and Quebec) initiated emergency orders that were as, or more, restrictive as the original restrictions in March and April of last year. In most places, the pandemic was limiting human interactions.

During this time, happiness declined from 62.4 out of 100 in early January to 60.5 in early February. A 3% drop over a month.

On one level the declining happiness runs counter to what you would expect in terms of the public’s current worry about the pandemic. In January, Canadians became less worried about COVID than they were in late December. And, while 27% of Canadians think the worst is still to come, this is down significantly from late December when almost half of Canadians felt this way.

That is not to say that happiness is not directly related to how people are feeling about the pandemic. There is a very strong relationship between happiness and evaluations of the pandemic. Happiness reaches 66.8 among those who believe the worst is behind us but is only at 58.5 for those who think the worst is ahead of us.

Happiness by Pandemic Concern

So if it is not increased worry that is driving happiness down, one likely candidate is the perceived performance of the federal and provincial governments in dealing with the pandemic. Elsewhere we show that the public’s evaluation of the federal government’s performance in all areas has weakened since the middle of January, with the greatest shift in its handling of vaccines.

It could also just be the winter blues afflicting Canadians, as is often the case this time of year.

THE UPSHOT

According to Richard Jenkins: “There has been lots of talk about how the pandemic has had negative impacts on the mental health of Canadians by disrupting their social networks and increasing the pressure on work and home life. It is, perhaps not surprising that as weariness grows, happiness will decline.

With vaccine rollout underway, this should be a time of optimism and hope. Instead, the slow rollout combined with the significant personal impact of the pandemic all while under cold winter weather is taking its toll. Spring, thankfully, is just around the corner.”

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METHODOLOGY

Our survey was conducted online with 2,000 Canadians aged 18 and over from January 29, 2021 to February 3, 2021. A random sample of panellists was invited to complete the survey from a set of partner panels based on the Lucid exchange platform. These partners are double opt-in survey panels, blended to manage out potential skews in the data from a single source.

The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 2.2%, 19 times out of 20. The data were weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Canada’s population according to age, gender, educational attainment, and region. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.

This poll was conducted and paid for by Abacus Data.

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METHODOLOGY

Our survey was conducted online with 2,000 Canadians aged 18 and over from January 29 to February 3, 2021. A random sample of panellists was invited to complete the survey from a set of partner panels based on the Lucid exchange platform. These partners are double opt-in survey panels, blended to manage out potential skews in the data from a single source.

The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 2.2%, 19 times out of 20. The data were weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Canada’s population according to age, gender, educational attainment, and region. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.

This poll was conducted and paid for by Abacus Data.

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