Quebec university workers report high levels of psychological distress

A new study shows that many employees of Quebec universities are experiencing high levels of psychological stress, a mental and emotional state characterized by depression and anxiety.

The study was prepared by Professor Julie Cloutier and doctoral student Sabrina Pellerin, from the School of Management (ESG) at University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM), for CUPE Quebec’s provincial university sector council. It was presented at the council’s biennial conference, whose theme this year was “Creating a healthy workplace, yes we can!”

CUPE’s 9154 members, who work for 11 academic institutions, were invited to take part in the study and 921 respondents completed the questionnaires.

Statistical data from 2016 shows 29% of workers in Quebec suffer from psychological distress. The new study revealed that among non-teaching university that number climbs to 53.4%, up 12.5% from ten years ago. Approximately, one-third (29.6%) struggle to maintain good work-life balance.

Recent and ongoing budget cuts and reductions in staff are the leading contributors to the problem.

“This study makes clear that support employees have borne the brunt of budget cuts. While the number of students and professors continues to grow, number of support staff is shrinking. No wonder they are suffering from the symptoms of psychological distress,” declared Carole Neill, the president of CPSU.

She added that if the government is serious about universities achieving their objectives, it must take immediate steps to increase the number of support staff positions.