This is a summary, written by members of the CITF Secretariat, of:

Brotto LA, Chankasingh K, Baaske A, Albert A, Booth A, Kaida A, Smith LW, Racey S, Gottschlich A, Murray MCM, Sadarangani M, Ogilvie GS, Galea L. The influence of sex, gender, age, and ethnicity on psychosocial factors and substance use throughout phases of the COVID-19 pandemic. medRxiv. Le 10 juin 2021. doi: 10.1101/2021.06.08.21258572

The results and/or conclusions contained in the research do not necessarily reflect the views of all CITF members.

The forced separation from family and friends and the disruption of regular activities brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has had a tremendous effect on people’s well-being and mental health. In a recent pre-print not yet peer-reviewed, researchers from British Columbia, including CITF Leadership Group member Dr. Gina Ogilvie and CITF-funded researcher Dr. Manish Sadarangani, reported results from the Rapid Evidence Study of a Provincial Population-Based Cohort for Gender and Sex (RESPPONSE). The authors show that age, sex, gender, ethnicity, Indigenous status, sexual orientation, and phase of the pandemic have distinct effects on mental health outcomes. The findings emphasize the need for nuanced and tailored public health messaging for these identified populations.

Key Points:

  • There has been an increase in adverse mental health symptoms including anxiety, depression, stress, and loneliness over the course of the pandemic.
  • Women and gender-diverse participants, young people, and Indigenous participants reported more mental health issues.
  • Overall, alcohol use and cannabis use increased, with women reporting a greater increase in cannabis use than men when compared to pre-pandemic levels.

In this province-wide analysis, led by Dr. Lori A. Brotto, the research team collected data from 6,426 individuals. Participants were asked via a web-based questionnaire to self-report symptoms of depression, anxiety, pandemic stress, loneliness, alcohol use, and cannabis use across different phases of time during the pandemic from mid-March 2020 to March 2021. Participants were also asked to reflect on their wellness and mental health pre-pandemic times. In one of the first studies looking at mental health at various stages of the pandemic, women of all ages reported significantly higher levels of anxiety, depression, and stress compared to men and gender-diverse participants reported even higher levels of mental health issues than women. Women also increased their uptake of alcohol and cannabis during the pandemic compared to before the pandemic; authors observed that this may potentially have been used as a coping mechanism.

In this in-depth and comprehensive manuscript, the authors highlight the need for policymakers and leaders to proactively consider gender when planning for health programming. In order to engage people and support them to maintain positive mental health outcomes, tailored public health messaging and programming must be utilized.