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From Angus Reid Institute

Generational divide drives concern over next COVID-19 wave

Men younger than 55 years less worried than others; less willing to stay home or wear a mask

July 19, 2022 – For at least the seventh time in an ongoing pandemic, Canadians are once again faced with a decision point this summer: to change their plans and behaviour to mitigate risk of contracting or spreading the latest variant of the COVID-19 virus, or plow ahead despite what public health officials are identifying as increasing risk?

It comes as Canada’s tourism sector desperately hoped for a “summer of recovery”, at a time when bookings for accommodations and flights are up compared to the two previous years, and as summer festivals, concerts and parades make their return. Despite this, COVID-19 concerns continue to swirl for a significant portion of the population.

A new study from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute finds half of Canadians expressing worry over potential illness. Those over the age of 54 carry much more of the weight of anxiety. Seven-in-ten (68%) among this age group say they’re concerned about getting sick, while fewer than half of those aged 18- to 34-years-old (43%) and 35- to 54-years-old (44%) say the same. This concern manifests itself in widely divergent behaviours and attitudes toward COVID-19.

Overall, half of Canadians (46%) say they have proceeded with caution in recent months, either avoiding community events (33%), cancelling plans with friends or family (25%), or taking a rain cheque on international (17%) or domestic (16%) trips. Further, if a seventh wave is formally declared in their province (it has been in Quebec, Ontario, and B.C. already) seven-in-ten say they will adjust accordingly by doing less in public or staying closer to home. This is not, however, the case for younger people, and particularly men younger than 55.

For this group, fewer than two-in-five say they would be willing to wear a mask more often or avoid crowded spaces if cases continue to rise and a seventh wave is formally acknowledged in their province. At least 55 per cent of all women, as well as men older than 54 say they would take these two steps to mitigate the risk of infection to themselves and others.

Thus, politicians and public health officials appear to be facing a unique challenge over the coming months. Considerable portions of the population remain receptive to the challenges COVID-19 presents, while others are tuning out the messaging. Indeed, half of Canadians now agree with the statement “I don’t think about COVID-19 much anymore” while an identical number disagree. Younger people are more likely to agree, while the virus occupies much more attention for those over the age of 65.

Agree vs. Disagree: I dont think about Covid-19 much anymore

More Key Findings

Men under 54

Two-thirds of men in the 18-to-34 and 35-to-54 age groups say they no longer think about COVID-19 very often.

BA.5

One-in-eight respondents overall (13%) say this seventh wave of COVID-19 caused by the BA.5 variant of Omicron could be more serious than previous waves, while two-in-five (37%) say it will be less serious. The rest either aren’t sure (36%) or are not paying attention to the new variant at all (14%).

Survey Methodology

The Angus Reid Institute conducted an online survey from July 13 – 17, 2022 among a representative randomized sample of 1,602 Canadian adults who are members of Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding. The survey was self-commissioned and paid for by ARI.

For detailed results by age, gender, region, education, and other demographics, click here.

For detailed results by whether or not the respondent is concerned about being personally infected by COVID-19, click here.

To read the full report, including detailed tables and methodology, click here

Read the questionnaire in English.

Image – Anastasiia Chepinska/Unsplash

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From the Angus Reid Institute, Canada’s non-profit foundation committed to independent research.

For detailed breakdown of the results, visit angusreid.org

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