Societal Impacts

Monitoring the Health and Social Impacts of COVID-19 

The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting us in significant ways. We have all been affected by the closure of schools and businesses, and the challenges that come with physical distancing and wearing a mask in our daily lives.  

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) is committed to monitoring the health and social impacts of COVID-19 over the weeks and months ahead – to understand how Ottawa residents are managing through this time, and to use this information to work with the community to provide supports where needed.  

One of the tools OPH will use to shape our understanding of these impacts is a population-level survey of Ottawa residents. The survey will be conducted at regular intervals over the course of the year. Results will be summarized in themes and posted once available. Explore the links below to learn more about our findings to date.

Other sources of information aligned with these themes will be investigated and added as available.

Perceptions of Seriousness, Risk and Sources of Concern for COVID-19

Key Findings from the October 2020 survey: 

  • Most residents (85%) continued to consider the COVID-19 pandemic to be extremely or very serious. 

  • Across all age groups, more people believed the pandemic was extremely or very serious in October compared to June. The biggest change was seen among residents aged 45-54, with 85% considering the pandemic to be extremely or very serious in October compared to 74% in June.  

  • In October, some groups viewed the pandemic as more serious than others: 

    • More women than men considered the pandemic to be extremely or very serious (88% vs. 83% respectively). 

    • More people with an annual household income of <$60,000 considered the pandemic to be extremely or very serious (93%) compared to those with higher household incomes (83%).

Table 1. In general, how serious would you say the COVID-19 pandemic is?

 March 2020June 2020October 2020

Extremely or Very serious 

94% 

82% 

85% 

Somewhat serious 

5% 

13% 

10% 

Not serious 

1% 

4% 

5% 

March 2020 survey = 559 respondents (March 26 to April 2, 2020) 

June 2020 survey = 566 respondents (June 3 to 8, 2020) 

October 2020 survey = 617 respondents (October 8 to 20, 2020) 

 

Key Findings from the June 2020 survey: 

  • The majority of Ottawa residents (82%) consider the COVID-19 pandemic to be extremely or very serious. This is lower than what was reported in late March (94%) at the start of the pandemic (Table 1).
  • Nearly all (95%) residents aged 65 or older consider the COVID-19 pandemic to be extremely or very serious, and this has remained the same since March.
  • Some age groups consider the pandemic to be less serious when compared to the Ottawa population overall. Only three quarters (74%) of those aged 18 to 29 and 45 to 54 years consider it to be extremely or very serious.

Table 1. In general, how serious would you say the COVID-19 pandemic is?

 

March 2020

June 2020

Extremely or Very serious

94%

82%

Somewhat serious

5%

13%

Not serious

1%

4%

March 2020 survey = 559 respondents (March 26 to April 2, 2020) 

June 2020 survey = 566 respondents (June 3 to 8, 2020)

 

Figure 1. Perceived seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic by age group, Ottawa, June 2020

A horizontal bar graph of the percent of adults by age group who perceived the COVID-19 pandemic to be extremely or very serious and somewhat serious. A data table to support this figure is located below.

 Data Source and Notes for Figure 1
 Ottawa Public Health. Impact of COVID-19 online survey of Ottawa adults. June 2020.
  • EKOS Research Associates Inc. was commissioned by Ottawa Public Health to conduct a bilingual (English and French) online survey of Ottawa residents regarding the impact of COVID-19.
  • The survey was completed by a random sample of 566 Ottawa residents between June 3 and June 8, 2020.
  • Error bars in the figure represent 95% confidence intervals.
 Data Table for Figure 1
Table. Perceived seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic by age group, Ottawa, June 2020

Age group

Extremely / very serious

(%, 95% CI)

Somewhat serious

(%, 95% CI)

18 – 29 years

74.3, 56.0 – 86.8

22.2, 10.6 – 40.7

30 – 44 years

81.8, 73.8 – 87.8

11.7, 7.0 – 19.0

45 – 54 years

73.9, 63.9 – 81.9

19.8, 12.6 – 29.7

55 – 64 years

83.0, 74.5 – 89.0

11.3, 6.5 – 18.9

65+ years

95.1, 90.2 -97.7

4.9, 2.3 – 9.8

Key Findings from the March 2020 survey:

  • Most people in Ottawa believe the pandemic is a serious issue (94%)
  • The priority for 40% of people in Ottawa is to do their part to prevent COVID-19 from spreading to others. Another 39% of people are concerned that others they know will get sick.
  • 84% of people have changed their social behaviour in response to COVID-19 by only socializing using remote connections such as communication online or telephone (50%) or using remote connections and socializing outdoors on walks or in the yard (34%). Only 5% of people in Ottawa report socializing in their homes or the homes of friends and family.
  • Over half of people in Ottawa (57%) are worried about the safety of people they know with frail health. A third of people in Ottawa are worried about physical and mental health of themselves or those in their households (35% and 32%, respectively).
  • Compared with the total population, Ottawans who identify as living with a disability are two to three times as likely to identify difficulty in all areas of preparing for when they or someone in their household may become ill as those not living with a disability. Over half of people living with a disability are worried about physical and mental health (50% and 52%, respectively).
  • Over half (53%) of people in Ottawa expect that the current measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 will be in place for two to three months.

Report: Perceptions and practices in Ottawa during the COVID 19 response. Results of a population survey March 26 to April 2, 2020 [PDF 640k] 

Mental Health, Substance Use and Health Behaviours

Key Findings from the October 2020 survey:  

  • Overall, in October 2020, Ottawa residents continued to report worsened mental health and emotional well-being, loneliness, weaker community connectedness and concern for burnout. 
  • While most of these indicators have remained stable since June, some groups continue to be more affected – or are faring worse than in June, and some appear to be reporting signs of improvement in their mental health. 
  • Of concern, Ottawa residents that generally fared worse in October or continued to report poorer mental health, stress, loneliness or concern for burnout more than others include: women, younger adults (<45 years), people with a disability, people identifying as racialized or a visible minority, people not born in Canada and people identifying as LGBTQ2S+. 
  • There appears to a positive effect of school and daycare re-openings on family mental healthOttawa parents are showing some indication of coping better and expressed some small improvements over concern for their children around missing social interactions and school supports. However, some parents continue to struggle. Generally, these included parents with lower household income and parents with a disability. 
  • One-quarter (25%) of Ottawa residents wanted to talk to someone about their emotional state or mental health but did not know where to turn. While improvements can still be made and it was not significantly different from June (29%), this optimistic shift was seen across most population groups and may be an indication of the work and positive strides made by community partners and providers to increase awareness and access to mental health services. 

Key Findings from the June 2020 survey:

  • The COVID-19 pandemic is a very stressful event for Ottawa residents and communities in Ottawa.
  • Ottawa residents are reporting worsened mental health and emotional well-being, loneliness and weaker community connectedness.
  • Three in ten Ottawa residents want to talk to someone about their emotional state or mental health, but do not know who to talk to.
  • Some Ottawa residents are affected by poorer mental health, stress and isolation more than others, including: parents of school-aged children, younger adults (<45 years), those self-identifying as a visible minority or with a disability, those with lower household income (<$60,000), those working with regular public interactions and those not working due to the pandemic.
  • Following two and a half months of school and daycare closures, a high proportion (84%) of parents are concerned about their child(ren) missing social interactions and connecting with their school or daycare communities (70%).
  • Two-thirds of parents with school-aged children at home are concerned about their child(ren)’s mental health and emotional well-being.

Report: Status of Mental Health in Ottawa During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Results of a population survey June 3 to 8, 2020 [PDF 802k]

Income and Employment

Key Findings from the October 2020 survey: 

  • The percentage of Ottawa residents not working because of the pandemic was significantly lower in October 2020 (5%) compared to June 2020 (11%).  
  • Over a quarter (28%) of residents said their household income had decreased between mid-March and October 2020 and 58% said it had remained the same. These are similar to findings reported in June when Ottawans were asked about any changes in household income during the spring. 
  • Among those who experienced income losses between mid-March and October 2020, nearly three-quarters (73%) said their monthly household income had not regained pre-pandemic levels.  
    • Although not statistically significant, this differed by income bracket: among those in households earning $60,000 or less, 88% of people said their monthly incomes had not regained pre-pandemic levels compared to 70% among those in households earning more than $60,000.  
    • There was also a significant shift between June and October 2020 in the percentage of those with income losses who said they were moderately to extremely worried about burn out (39% in June to 62% in October). 
  • The percentage of residents reporting difficulties paying for basic living costs (housing, food or utilities) did not significantly change between October and June 2020 (18% vs. 19%, respectively).  
    • The percentage of people reporting difficulties paying for basic living costs was notably higher for people in households earning under $60,000 per year, people not born in Canada, people who identified as visible minority or racialized, people who identified as LGBTQ2S+ and people with disabilities. 
  • A significantly higher percentage of people reported difficulties putting money into savings in October (38%) compared to June (27%). Compared to June, the percentage of people reporting difficulties increased across all sub-populations. 

Key Findings from the June 2020 survey:

  • The closure of non-essential business, schools and daycares, and stay-at-home measures in mid-March has led to unemployment, a decrease in job seeking and income loss for some Ottawans. Many individuals and businesses applied for emergency response benefits, subsidies, and payment deferrals.
  • One in ten (11%) Ottawans are not currently working because of the COVID-19 pandemic and 28% report a decrease in income since mid-March. It is too early to know how many Ottawans will lose their job permanently as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent financial impact.
  • One-fifth (19%) of Ottawa residents said they had difficulty paying for either housing, food or utilities. This was more common among residents with a disability, those with lower household income and those who had a decrease in income since mid-March.
  • Groups that appear to be most impacted by income loss and the ability to pay for basic living costs (housing, food, utilities) include visible minorities and those with a disability.

Report: Status of Employment and Income Pressures During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Ottawa. Results from a population survey (June 3 to 8, 2020) with supporting data from Statistics Canada [PDF 935k]

Health Services 

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to disruptions in health care. Many non-urgent surgeries and appointments were delayed or cancelled, and other in-person health services were closed or limited. In addition, Ontarians were asked to stay at home and limit their public outings and many may have avoided or delayed seeking health services. Health services may include those received from a doctor, nurse, counsellor, dietitian, therapist, dentist, surgeon or emergency care provider.

Key Findings from the October 2020 survey:  

  • 39% of Ottawa residents expressed worry about the impact of COVID-19 on their physical health or that of others in their household. This is consistent with what we heard early in the pandemic (33% in March-April).
    • Some groups were more likely to express worry, including those with a disability (53%), those aged 65 and older (49%), and those who reported worsened mental health and well-being (53%), high stress (54%), feeling lonely (69%) or wanting to talk to someone and not knowing where to turn (57%).  
  • Compared to survey results from June, small improvements were seen in the proportion of Ottawa residents avoiding health services (October: 38% vs. June: 45%or experiencing delays or cancellations (October: 58% vs. June: 68%), though these changes were not statistically significant. 
    • Across age categories, avoidance was lowest among those aged 65 and older (20%), and highest among those aged 45-54 (47%). 
    • Appointment delays or cancellations were highest among residents with a disability (72%)and those who reported feeling lonely (75%), wanting to talk to someone and not knowing where to turn (67%), or reporting high stress (66%).  
  • 37% of Ottawa residents felt the disruptions in access to health services had a negative impact on their health. This is somewhat higher than June (28%), though not statistically significant 
    • This finding continues to be most pronounced among those with a disability, with 18% reporting significantly worse health and 39% somewhat worse health. 
  • Half of Ottawa residents (49%) reported getting a flu shot since September 2019.  
    • Across age categories, this was lowest among those aged 18-2(33%) and highest among those aged 65 and older (64%). 
    • More Ottawa residents currently working outside the home did not get a flu shot (61%) compared to those who are retired (35%) or working from home (50%).  
  • 72% of Ottawa residents reported that they are likely to get a flu shot this season.  
    • Likelihood increased with age, from 61% among those aged 18-29, to 90% among those aged 65 and older.  
    • Some groups reported that they are less likely to get a flu shot this season; notably, 33% of those who identify as first-generation immigrants30% of those working outside the home, and 30% of those with a household income under $60,000 are not likely to get a flu shot this season. 
    • Those who perceived the COVID-19 pandemic as serious are significantly more likely to get a flu shot this season compared to those who do not (76% vs. 49%). 

Key Findings from the June 2020 survey:

  • Almost half (45%) of Ottawa residents avoided getting health services for something they normally would have sought care for before the pandemic. This was more likely among those with a disability (65%).
  • Nearly two thirds of Ottawa residents (68%) experienced appointment delays or cancellations since the start of the pandemic. This was more likely among those aged 45 to 54 (79%) and among households with a child aged 12 to 18 (79%).      
  • 28% of Ottawa residents felt the disruptions in access to health services had a negative impact on their health. This was particularly notable among those with a disability, with 17% reporting significantly worse health and 32% somewhat worse health.
  • Ottawa residents who reported concerns about their mental health and emotional well-being, such as higher stress or feeling lonely, or wanting to talk to someone about their mental health and not knowing where to turn, were more likely to report avoiding health services, experiencing delays, or feeling their health has worsened. 
Support for Leadership 

Key Findings from the October 2020 survey: 

  • Most residents (84%) agreed that the information provided by OPH is trustworthy.  

  • This finding was generally consistent across age groups but differed depending on where people live. Residents in rural Ottawa were significantly less likely to agree that the information provided by OPH is trustworthy (69%) compared to residents in the urban central region (95%). 

Key Findings from the June 2020 survey:

  • Overall, the majority of residents agree that the City of Ottawa and Ottawa Public Health are doing a good job of providing up-to-date information during the COVID-19 response and doing everything it can to protect the health of residents.
  • The June findings on public opinions about City of Ottawa and Ottawa Public Health responses to the COVID-19 pandemic were similar to those collected in March 2020. Refer to the table below for details.

 

Agree

Neither

Disagree 

 

March 2020

June 2020

 March 2020

June 2020

 March 2020

 June 2020

The City of Ottawa is doing a good job of providing up-to-date information on City operations and services during the COVID-19 response

71%

 

73% 

13%

8%

10%

15%

The City of Ottawa is doing everything it can to protect the health of residents from COVID-19

70%

68% 

11%

9%

15%

20%

Ottawa Public Health is doing everything it can to protect the health of residents from COVID-19

77%

76% 

9%

8%

9%

14%

March 2020 survey = 559 respondents (March 26 to April 2, 2020)

June 2020 survey = 566 respondents (June 3 to 8, 2020)

 

Key Findings from the March 2020 survey:

  • Most people in Ottawa believe that governments in Canada are taking the necessary steps to contain COVID-19 (93%).

Report: Perceptions and practices in Ottawa during the COVID 19 response. Results of a population survey March 26 to April 2, 2020 [PDF 640k]  

COVID-19 in Ottawa –The relation to racialized communities and deprivation

  • Areas with a high proportion of racialized communities and high material deprivation have higher rates of COVID-19 compared to areas with a lower proportion of racialized communities or lower material deprivation.

Complete report: COVID-19 in Ottawa –The relation to racialized communities and deprivation [PDF 290 k]

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