In 2020, Movember released a survey that showed eight out of 10 Canadian men find it helpful when people ask if they’re having a difficult time, yet sadly four out of ten Canadian men (40 percent) say no one has asked how they’re coping during the COVID-19 pandemic. Interested in exploring the impact COVID-19 had had on social connectivity – particularly in men – the research conducted by Movember showed a quarter of Canadian men who participated in the survey, had not checked in with their own family or friends to find out how they were doing during the crisis, compared with only 13 percent of women.
Diving deeper, the research found that approximately a third of Canadian men felt their relationships with friends (32 percent) and work colleagues (also 32 percent) had weakened since stay-at-home and physical distancing restrictions had been imposed. The research also showed Canadian men were less likely to seek help (from family, friends or other sources) as a means to helping them manage changes to their life due to the COVID-1 pandemic, with only 49 percent reporting they had sought help, compared to 58 percent of women. In Canada, older men as a group are most likely to have experienced poorer social connection, with 57 percent of Canadian men aged 45+ years reporting they feel less connected to their friends since the COVID-19 outbreak, compared with 48 percent of men aged 18 to 24 years.
It’s no surprise mental health continues to be a central theme in the COVID-19 rhetoric globally and for good reason. The study showed over a quarter of Canadian men (27 percent) reported their mental health had worsened compared to before the outbreak of COVID-19 and a third (34 percent) stated they felt lonely more often. Prior to COVID-19, in Canada three out of four deaths by suicide are men, and it is the second leading cause of death in men aged 15 – 44. However, the role of social connectivity on mental health is well documented, showing positive impacts on alleviating feelings of anxiety, depression and other mental health challenges. With social isolation as the ‘new normal’, it is clear there are heightened mental health risks, and sadly these results also show that Canadians are more likely to check-in on how female friends and family are coping since the COVID-19 pandemic began, than they are for their male friends and family.
The findings paint a grim picture. It’s clear that men are seeking connection and in need of support. These important conversations can be uncomfortable and feel awkward, but as we head into the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever to check-in on friends and loved ones. Making a call can go a long way.
Movember continues to be committed to tackling the crisis in men’s mental health through its investment in early intervention and prevention programs. In May of 2020, the charity launched Movember Conversations, a new easy-to-use interactive online tool, offering practical guidance on how to start a difficult conversation and support someone who is struggling. Based on Australian non-profit R U OK?’s ALEC conversation framework (Ask, Listen, Encourage action, Check in) and guided by an international team of mental health experts, Movember Conversations is a free interactive digital tool (available in English and French) that presents a number of scenarios relevant to today’s world including job loss, social isolation and family pressures. It uses simulated conversations to explore and practice how anyone might navigate a difficult conversation with someone they care about.
You can visit Movember Conversations at https://conversations.movember.com/ .