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March 9, 2021

In Brief: COVID-19 IMPACTS on Families Living with Disabilities

Vanier Institute’s In Brief Series: Mobilizing Research on Families in Canada

Diana Gerasimov

March 9, 2021

STUDIES:

Yang, F., K. Dorrance and N. Aitken. “The Changes in Health and Well-being of Canadians with Long-term Conditions or Disabilities Since the Start of the COVID-19 Pandemic,” StatCan COVID-19: Data to Insights for a Better Canada, Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 45-28-0001 (October 7, 2020). Link: .

Arim, R., L. Findlay and D. Kohen. “The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Canadian Families of Children with Disabilities,” StatCan COVID-19: Data to Insights for a Better Canada, Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 45-28-0001 (August 27, 2020). Link: .


Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected many Canadians’ physical and mental health,1 including limiting their access to services they may have otherwise reached out to for support. This can have a significant impact on those living with disabilities or long-term conditions, who are more likely to use health services on a regular basis and whose situation may be compounded by isolation and distance from familiar, informal social support.

In a recently published data from Statistics Canada, Canadians living with disabilities or long-term conditions who participated in a crowdsourced survey, from June to July 2020, reported declining health and mental health, as well as disruptions to health services. Variations in the general health of participants depend on the type of disability or long-term condition that individuals experience.

  • 48% of participants living with disabilities or chronic conditions reported that their health was “somewhat worse” or “much worse” since before the pandemic.
  • 64% of participants with cognitive conditions reported that their health had gotten “much” or “somewhat” worse compared with before the pandemic.
  • 60% of individuals with mental health conditions reported that their overall health had gotten “much” or “somewhat” worse compared with before the pandemic.
  • 48% of participants with hearing conditions reported their health to have stayed about the same.
  • 73% of participants with mental-health related conditions reported “much worse” or “somewhat worse” mental health.
  • 57% of participants with disabilities or chronic conditions self-rated their overall mental health as having declined since the beginning of the pandemic, while 36% reported that their mental health had not changed and 7% reported an improvement in their mental health (“somewhat better” or “much better”).
  • 44% participants with hearing conditions reported consistent mental health since before the pandemic.

Families of children with disabilities

Another crowdsourced survey, which explored the experiences of parents of children living with disabilities, found that they were more likely to express concern for their children regarding their child’s mental health, anxiety and emotions, academic success and the impact of social isolation.

  • 60% of parents of children with disabilities were concerned for their child’s mental health compared with 43% of parents with children without disabilities.
  • 76% of parents of children with disabilities were very concerned about regulating their child’s anxiety and emotions, compared with 57% of parents of children without disabilities.
  • 58% of parents of children with disabilities or long-term conditions were very concerned for their child’s academic success compared with 36% of parents of children without disabilities.
  • 6 in 10 parents of children with disabilities were very concerned about social isolation compared with 5 in 10 parents of children without disabilities.

Diana Gerasimov holds a bachelor’s degree from Concordia University in Communication and Cultural Studies.


Note

  1. Learn more about the impact of COVID-19 on mental health in Family Finances and Mental Health During the COVID‑19 Pandemic and Do Adults in Couples Have Better Mental Health During the COVID‑19 Pandemic?