DOI: 10.24095/hpcdp.44.3.04 ISSN: 2368-738X

A prospective study of financial worry, mental health changes and the moderating effect of social support among Canadian adolescents during the COVID-19 pandemic

Jessica A. Goddard, Valerie F. Pagnotta, Markus J. Duncan, Matthew Sudiyono, William Pickett, Scott T. Leatherdale, Karen A. Patte
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health Policy
  • Epidemiology

The COVID-19 pandemic intensified the impact of risk factors for adolescent mental health, including financial worry. Social support has shown to protect from negative mental health during times of stress. We examined the effect of financial worry on changes in anxiety and depression symptoms among Canadian adolescents prior to and during the pandemic, and assessed whether social support from family and friends moderated any changes.


We analyzed 2-year linked data from the 2018/19 (pre-pandemic) and 2020/21 (during-pandemic) waves of the COMPASS study, with reports from 12 995 Canadian secondary school students. A series of multilevel linear regressions were conducted to examine the main hypotheses under study.


Students scored an average (SD) of 7.2 (5.8) on the anxiety (GAD-7) and 10.0 (6.5) on the depression (CESD-10) scales; 16.1% reported they experienced financial worry during the pandemic. Financial worry was a strong and significant predictor of increased anxiety scores (+1.7 score between those reporting “true/mostly true” versus “false/mostly false”) during the pandemic, but not for depression scores. Low family and friend support were associated with anxiety, and low family support was associated with depression. No significant interactions were detected between social support and financial worry.


Pandemic-related financial worry was significantly associated with anxiety in our large sample of Canadian adolescents. Clinical and public health initiatives should be aware of adolescents’ financial worry and its associations with anxiety during times of crisis.

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