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Loneliness was widespread during the second wave of Covid

A new study reveals that one out of three Canadians experienced severe loneliness during the second wave of COVID-19. Dr. Lamson Lin Shen of the City University of Hong Kong estimates that loneliness affected 34.7 percent of the population, which is much higher than previous estimates of 14–27 percent that were established in other parts of the world. 

According to the study, individuals who experienced job instability during the pandemic had double the risk of developing severe loneliness compared to people with secure employment.

“This concerning magnitude implies that during the pandemic lockdown, severe loneliness was ubiquitous in Canada,” said Dr. Lin. “This is probably due to the disruption in daily social activities, which normally help people cope with stress, as well as the intense social isolation caused by the lockdown measures implemented in many provinces of Canada.”

The research was focused on data from thousands of participants in the Canadian Perspective Survey Series, which was conducted during the second wave of the pandemic. Dr. Lin used machine learning to identify population patterns of loneliness.

The analysis revealed that migrants who experienced job insecurity – such as business closures, layoffs or absence from work due to COVID-19 infection – were among the most at risk of severe loneliness.

“The COVID-19 pandemic indeed amplified immigrants’ susceptibility to loneliness,” said Dr. Lin. “This may be due to the fact that many migrants to Canada are over-represented in low-paid, low-skilled, unstable jobs, such as retail positions, cleaners, or cashiers, that require extensive interaction with the public, so they are at greater occupational risk of COVID-19 infection and consequential employment insecurity.”

The analysis also identified groups that have a higher risk of loneliness, regardless of the pandemic, including youth and adolescents, women, people living alone, people with a limited social circle, binge drinkers, abs recent cannabis users. 

“My findings further shed light on the importance of building an equitable mental health care system in the pandemic response and recovery in Canada and other immigrant-receiving countries of the world,” said Dr Lin. “Primary care providers and mental health clinicians should assess loneliness symptoms in their routine patient examinations. At the community level, social care organizations should develop early prevention and intervention programs targeting high-risk groups with a greater burden of loneliness, especially for immigrant and marginalized populations.”

The study is published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

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By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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