A good number of Quebecers generally have a good perception of their quality of life despite the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying measures, according to the preliminary results of a large-scale research project that extends until 2026 to measure the impacts of the health crisis.

The VIRAGE study looks at changes in quality of life and resilience in the population in order to better adapt health care and social services.

It is being conducted under the supervision of researchers from CIUSSS de la Mauricie-Centre-du-Québec (MCQ), UQTR and the Réseau intersectoriel de recherche en santé de l'Université du Québec (RISUQ).

More than 1,000 respondents have participated to date in this survey, which is being conducted mainly in the Mauricie, Centre-du-Québec, Bas-St-Laurent, Gaspésie and Abitibi-Témiscamingue regions.

According to the first data collected, a large majority of the participants (82 per cent) seem to generally perceive their quality of life as good, very good or even excellent.

Not surprisingly, the study suggests that quality of life is lower among people with low incomes and low levels of education.

VIRAGE used the World Health Organization's questionnaire that defines quality of life according to four indicators: physical health, psychological well-being, social relationships and environment.

The gaps between the richest and the least affluent are most evident in the environmental component, which includes a sense of security, living in a healthy environment, and access to leisure activities, transportation and care.

"One of the outcomes of our study is to say that we need to work on favourable environments, particularly among the less wealthy, because this will certainly have an impact on their quality of life," said Julie Houle, scientific director of the CIUSSS MCQ's prevention and health promotion research infrastructure, in an interview.

"A disparity can also be observed between these socio-demographic groups in terms of physical health, which is far from surprising," said Houle, who is also a professor in the Department of Nursing at UQTR. "It has been scientifically demonstrated that environments influence many lifestyle habits related to health and the development of many chronic diseases."


The preliminary results of the study also reveal that resilience, or the ability to bounce back from stressful or difficult events, plays a key role in the quality of life of Quebecers.

"Resilience could explain up to 30 per cent of psychological well-being, a 'very strong' correlation," says Houle. "This association is even more important among the less wealthy."

Being able to adapt to difficult events, making sense of what is happening and having the power to act on the situation all contribute to psychological well-being,

"Given the results we have obtained, it will be important to pursue the studies a little further to better understand what makes it easier or harder for people to bounce back from difficult situations," said Houle.

Houle added that more effort should be made with low-income populations to promote their resilience, seeing that this indicator has an important impact on their quality of life.

"Knowing full well that if we improve the resilience of this population, we risk having an effect on their perception of psychological well-being," she said. "Although the respondents are concentrated in certain regions, the results of the study could be used throughout Quebec. So far, the data has shown few significant differences between regions."

The study is still looking for new participants. Previous participants are invited every six months to complete the same questionnaires to track changes in quality of life and resilience.

-- This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on May 22, 2022.