CALGARY -- Struggles with isolation and loneliness are among the top factors affecting mental health in Canada and new data shows Albertans are suffering the most.

The Mental Health Index, released Thursday by Morneau Shepell, found the mental health of Canadians has declined again for the 10th straight month since the rating system was put into place last April.

Alberta's results were the lowest among all provinces in the January report, which had a -14.7 mental health score, 0.8 points lower than in December.

Stress is also increasing for Albertans, the survey suggests.

"The greatest increase in stress month-over-month was for respondents living in Alberta (67.1), followed by Manitoba (61.9), Saskatchewan (60.7), and British Columbia (60.5)," the group wrote in a statement.

Morneau Shepell, a leading provider of technology-enabled human resources services, says employers need to do whatever they can to promote the well-being of their employees' mental health.

"The winter blues are even more heightened this year with the pandemic and isolation impacting Canadians at an alarming rate across the country," said Stephen Liptrap, president and chief executive officer in a statement.

"As we continue to navigate the day-to-day changes and uncertainties of the pandemic, we’re seeing Canadians struggle to maintain a positive mindset and find healthy balances in their work and personal lives."

The index also revealed a startling impact on the mental health of post-secondary students as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It says students are challenged by adapting to virtual learning environments and struggling with "inconsistencies and ever-evolving restrictions" with their education.

Morneau Shepell's index found that full-time post-secondary students reported the lowest mental health score across all industry sectors.

"Furthermore, full-time post-secondary students are experiencing the most significant increase in mental stress compared to other industries tracked by the Mental Health Index," it said. "Beyond the challenges of today, the pandemic has also exacerbated many pre-existing risks for students."

The online survey was conducted on a group of 3,000 Canadians between Dec. 14 and 23, 2020. All of the respondents were employed for at least six months before answering.