Canada's Youth Becoming 'Less Hopeful' Amid Economic and Mental Health Challenges: StatCan Report

Canada's Youth Becoming 'Less Hopeful' Amid Economic and Mental Health Challenges: StatCan Report
People walk and cycle on the seawall between English Bay and Sunset Beach in Vancouver on March 22, 2020. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)
Amanda Brown

Challenges such as the rising cost of living and the pursuit of independence mean young people in Canada are “less satisfied and less hopeful,” according to a report published by Statistics Canada.

The report, “Navigating Socioeconomic Obstacles: Impact on the Well-being of Canadian Youth” published Sept. 20, said surveys conducted on behalf of StatCan show young people in Canada are less content and more pessimistic about the future.

In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada's youth are facing a disproportionate number of obstacles compared to other age groups in the nation, the StatCan report said. Nearly one-fifth of Canada's population, or over 7.3 million people, is made up of children and young adults aged 15–29.

“Although youth demonstrated resiliency in overcoming the obstacles, this age group still faces disproportionately high levels of poverty,” StatCan said, adding that higher unemployment was because “employment for this age group is concentrated in industries with the lowest average wages, such as food and accommodation, with many graduates remaining overqualified for their job.”

The issue of housing affordability is an ongoing struggle for many Canadians across the nation, but the problem has disproportionately affected young Canadians, some of whom, StatCan says, have been forced to make “major sacrifices.” The agency said that in 2022, 32 percent of youth said they wanted to buy a home or move to a new rental but decided against it because prices had moved out of reach.

Issues around affordability and a lack of access to adequate housing have also affected Canadians' aspirations to have children, particularly those aged 20 to 29.

In 2022, StatCan said 38 percent of those young adults “did not believe they could afford to have a child in the next three years,” while 32 percent “did not believe they would have access to suitable housing to start a family in that time frame.”

Compared to those aged 30 to 49, adults aged 20 to 29 were more likely to think that low-income and unsuitable housing would be a barrier to having a child.

Reduced disposable income due to higher housing and other costs has also had an impact on leisure time options, which has had an impact on mental health. According to the report, fewer people in lower income groups report having "excellent" or "very good" mental health—of which 59 percent were men and 50 percent were women.

At the start of the pandemic, self-perceived mental health among Canadian youth significantly declined, with only 40 percent claiming to have excellent or very good mental health in late March and early April 2020. This marks a 20 percent drop from 2019 levels.


In May, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), in collaboration with the Memorial University of Newfoundland, published a report that examined suicidal ideation among adults in Canada aged 18 to 34 affected by the pandemic.

The report, titled “Suicidal Ideation Among Young Adults in Canada During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Evidence From a Population-based Cross-sectional Study,” said suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, and self-harm have increased in some populations and contexts. In Canada, the prevalence of recent suicidal ideation among adults was 2.7 percent in 2019 and 2.4 percent in the fall of 2020, increasing significantly to 4.2 percent by the spring of 2021.

Here4Hope, an Ontario-based agency dedicated to youth suicide prevention, said youth suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people aged 15 to 24 in Canada.

“Nearly two-thirds of youth said their mental health got worse since the pandemic. The time for action to help our youth is now,” Here4Hope said.

StatCan said choices young Canadians are being forced to make are predicted to impact the country’s long-term demographic and geographic composition.

Data was collected using Statistics Canada's Quality of Life framework on various determinants related to social and economic well-being. To gauge Canadians' quality of life and well-being, the framework compiles data on 85 indicators covering prosperity, health, society, the environment, good governance, life satisfaction, and meaning and purpose.