COVID-19 takes mental health toll on business owners

Businesses already financially stretched by the pandemic are facing further challenges from rising mental health concerns among workers |  AntonioGuillem/Getty

We often hear that COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate and anyone can fall victim to it. But that’s not entirely true – according to Statistics Canada, more women have contracted COVID-19 than men.

Canada does not collect racial demographics on the country’s COVID-19 victims, but other jurisdictions including the U.S. and U.K. have found racial disparities in those affected by the pandemic, with people of colour suffering disproportionately from the virus.

In fact, these disparities seem to have spread beyond just a physical impact but have bled into the business environment. In addition to its physical toll, the pandemic has placed a bigger mental health burden on women and people of colour. A recently released study from the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) found that women and visible-minority business owners were more likely to say they were facing mental health challenges due to COVID-19.

According to the report, women were more likely to feel depressed at work than all business owners and 40% said it was affecting their ability to do their work compared to 31% for all business owners. Visible minority business owners were also more likely to feel depressed at work with 48% responding they felt depressed at least once a week compared to 39% for all business owners.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, owners of businesses that have yet to re-open were significantly likely to face mental health challenges related to the pandemic, with 75% saying they felt depressed and the majority affirming itaffected their ability to do their job. Small business owners were also more likely than other business owners to suffer mental health challenges related to the pandemic.

BDC chart

The top concern for business owners was generating enough revenue to cover expenses and make a profit. Businesses generally were less concerned about complying with public health measures and understanding government programs available to them according to the report.

“The fact that two-thirds of respondents feel tired, low or have little energy is worrisome and should be addressed,” said Joaquin Poundja, psychologist Douglas Mental Health University Institute in Quebec. “On one hand, it is important to keep in mind that being more anxious at times or having mild ups and downs is a normal reaction during a pandemic, but it can be more problematic when we become self-critical or judgmental. Finding coping strategies and watching for warning signs of a bigger problem are important."