Many Canadians who contracted COVID-19 worried about dying: Poll

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OTTAWA — A new poll has pulled back the curtains on the fear and anxiety that comes with contracting COVID-19, including widespread concern among those who have tested positive for the illness that they could die.

The survey was conducted by Léger and the Association for Canadian Studies over six months and saw more than 300 respondents who identified themselves as having caught COVID-19 reflect on their experience.

Among those, more than one in three — 35 per cent — indicated that they worried that they might die from the illness, which has already taken the lives of more than 14,000 Canadians.

The result roughly aligns with the 43 per cent who said they got very sick from COVID-19, Léger executive vice-president Christian Bourque said, including 27 per cent who said it was like no illness they'd ever had.

"I think it was a reflection of the percentage of people who said: 'God, did I ever feel sick as a dog,' " he said, noting the numbers were largely consistent across all age groups.

Bourque said one purpose of the survey was to try to get a sense of the degree to which Canadians have actually suffered from having COVID-19, given reports about how people get different symptoms.

"We hear about people who are asymptomatic and for some people, it's like a cold, they kind of brush it off and don't really feel that sick," he said.

"And then we hear about people sort of on a (ventilator). What we wanted to know is the degree to which people said that they had personally suffered from it."

To that end, while nearly half of respondents reported feeling very sick and 16 per cent felt only somewhat sick, while 27 per cent did not feel very sick. Fourteen per cent reported not having any symptoms at all.

The average length of time that respondents said they were sick was about 13 days, with one in five saying they felt ill for longer than three weeks.

The poll also found that nearly one in four respondents was close to someone who had died of COVID-19. It wasn't clear the degree to which those people felt more scared about also dying from the illness.

The online polling was conducted from July 3 to Nov. 29, during which 21,225 Canadians were contacted, of whom 303 said that they had contracted COVID-19.

The poll cannot be assigned a margin of error because internet-based polls are not considered truly random. Respondents also had to be well enough to participate in the survey.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 21, 2020.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press