Article Text

Original research
Examining the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on family mental health in Canada: findings from a national cross-sectional study
  1. Anne C Gadermann1,2,
  2. Kimberly C Thomson1,2,
  3. Chris G Richardson2,3,
  4. Monique Gagné1,2,
  5. Corey McAuliffe4,
  6. Saima Hirani4,
  7. Emily Jenkins4
  1. 1Human Early Learning Partnership, School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  2. 2Centre for Health Evaluation and Outcome Sciences, Providence Health Care Research Institute, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  3. 3School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  4. 4School of Nursing, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Anne C Gadermann; anne.gadermann{at}


Objectives In the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, social isolation, school/child care closures and employment instability have created unprecedented conditions for families raising children at home. This study describes the mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on families with children in Canada.

Design, setting and participants This descriptive study used a nationally representative, cross-sectional survey of adults living in Canada (n=3000) to examine the mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Outcomes among parents with children <18 years old living at home (n=618) were compared with the rest of the sample. Data were collected via an online survey between 14 May to 29 May 2020.

Outcome measures Participants reported on changes to their mental health since the onset of the pandemic and sources of stress, emotional responses, substance use patterns and suicidality/self-harm. Additionally, parents identified changes in their interactions with their children, impacts on their children’s mental health and sources of support accessed.

Results 44.3% of parents with children <18 years living at home reported worse mental health as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic compared with 35.6% of respondents without children <18 living at home, χ2 (1, n=3000)=16.2, p<0.001. More parents compared with the rest of the sample reported increased alcohol consumption (27.7% vs 16.1%, χ2 (1, n=3000)=43.8, p<0.001), suicidal thoughts/feelings (8.3% vs 5.2%, χ2 (1, n=3000)=8.0, p=0.005) and stress about being safe from physical/emotional domestic violence (11.5% vs 7.9%, χ2 (1, n=3000)=8.1, p=0.005). 24.8% (95% CI 21.4 to 28.4) of parents reported their children’s mental health had worsened since the pandemic. Parents also reported more frequent negative as well as positive interactions with their children due to the pandemic (eg, more conflicts, 22.2% (95% CI 19.0 to 25.7); increased feelings of closeness, 49.7% (95% CI 45.7 to 53.7)).

Conclusions This study identifies that families with children <18 at home have experienced deteriorated mental health due to the pandemic. Population-level responses are required to adequately respond to families’ diverse needs and mitigate the potential for widening health and social inequities for parents and children.

  • mental health
  • public health
  • community child health
  • epidemiology
  • COVID-19

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request.

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See:

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Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request.

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  • Correction notice This article has been corrected since it first published. The provenance and peer review statement has been included.

  • Contributors AG, KT, MG, EJ and CM co-led the conceptualisation of this investigation. AG directed the data analyses, interpretation and writing of this manuscript. KT conducted the data analyses and contributed to data interpretation and writing of this manuscript. EJ, CGR, MG, CM and SH contributed to the interpretation and writing of this manuscript.

  • Funding The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) funded survey data collection through national polling vendor, Maru/Matchbox. Collaborators from CMHA also contributed to the survey development. CMHA had no further role in the study design, data collection, data analysis or interpretation.

  • Conflict of Interest Declaration CGR reports receiving personal fees from the University of British Columbia during the conduct of this study. All other authors report no competing interests.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.