Findings from an online survey on the mental health effects of COVID-19 on Canadians with disabilities and chronic health conditions

Disabil Health J. 2021 Jul;14(3):101085. doi: 10.1016/j.dhjo.2021.101085. Epub 2021 Feb 24.


Background: Although the COVID-19 pandemic has led to worsening mental health outcomes throughout the Canadian population, its effects have been more acute among already marginalized groups, including people with disabilities and chronic health conditions. This paper examines how heightened fears of contracting the virus, financial impacts, and social isolation contribute to declining mental health among this already vulnerable group.

Objective/hypothesis: This paper investigates how increases in anxiety, stress, and despair are associated with concerns about getting infected, COVID-19-induced financial hardship, and increased social isolation as a result of adhering to protective measures among people with disabilities and chronic health conditions.

Methods: This study uses original national quota-based online survey data (n = 1027) collected in June 2020 from people with disabilities and chronic health conditions. Three logistic regression models investigate the relationship between COVID-19's effects on finances, concerns about contracting the virus, changes in loneliness and belonging, and measures taken to combat the spread of COVID-19 and reports of increased anxiety, stress, and despair, net of covariates.

Results: Models show that increased anxiety, stress, and despair were associated with negative financial effects of COVID-19, greater concerns about contracting COVID-19, increased loneliness, and decreased feelings of belonging. Net of other covariates, increased measures taken to combat COVID-19 was not significantly associated with mental health outcomes.

Conclusions: Findings address how the global health crisis is contributing to declining mental health status through heightened concerns over contracting the virus, increases in economic insecurity, and growing social isolation, speaking to how health pandemics exacerbate health inequalities.

Keywords: Anxiety; COVID-19; Disability; Economic security; Mental health.

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety
  • COVID-19*
  • Canada
  • Depression
  • Disabled Persons*
  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • Pandemics
  • SARS-CoV-2