Canadians' financial stress continues to affect their health: Manulife Financial Wellness Index

WATERLOO, ON, March 24, 2017 /CNW/ - Two in five Canadians say they are financially unwell, according to the latest Manulife Financial Wellness Index. Those respondents are concerned by debt (82 per cent), not saving for retirement (60 per cent), stressed (67 per cent) due to their financial situation and 83 per cent said they are not financially prepared to protect their loved ones (death, serious illness, disability, having a will, etc).

"We want to help Canadians live better and healthier lives. Looking at people's wellness has traditionally included physical aspects, and in recent years focused more on emotional health," said Sue Reibel, Executive Vice-President and General Manager Institutional Markets, Manulife. "Our findings show that the role of financial wellness, whether good or bad, affects overall wellbeing and is an important contributor to helping Canadians reach positive emotional health."

Financial wellness is based on the way an individual manages their overall financial situation, including budgeting, retirement planning, investing, debt management, financial protection and financial stress. Manulife's research shows that money continues to be the greatest source of stress and it impacts an individual's mental health leading to absenteeism rates and lost productivity. Canadians who consider themselves financially unwell revealed that dealing with money is a factor of stress (81 per cent, often/sometimes) and those who are financially unwell are eight times more likely to have bad stress levels and may be distracted at work (49 per cent, often/sometimes).

Manulife's Financial Wellness Assessment is a quick, easy and free online questionnaire measuring financial wellness. The assessment was launched in 2016 for group retirement customers and is now also available to group benefits customers, helping one in three Canadians to improve their overall financial situation. It provides Manulife group plan customers with a score and a personalized action plan. The Financial Wellness Assessment can be found in the sign in section of their online account.

"This is the first time a financial assessment is available for both group benefits and group retirement customers to help them improve their financial situation. This assessment will help them learn their financial wellness score, and provide them with personalized action plans they can use to potentially reduce their financial worries," said Reibel.

Healthy finances and a healthy lifestyle go hand in hand Canadians who are financially well are more likely to be successful at managing their health according to the Financial Wellness Index. Those with low levels of financial wellness are almost five times more likely not to engage in any healthy activity. Canadians who say they are financially well are more likely to say that their physical health is excellent (25 per cent) or good (45 per cent), they eat more fruits and vegetables (79 per cent), get more exercise (68 per cent), get regular health checkups (61 per cent) and educate themselves on being healthier (46 per cent).

In addition, employers offering group plans have an impact on the financial wellness and health of their employees. Those who are financially well are more likely to have a group retirement (65 per cent) and group benefits plan (79 per cent) compared to those who are financially unwell (42 per cent and 58 per cent, respectively). Also, those who have group benefits plans are more likely to score better on the stress index (56 per cent) than those who do not have any plans (48 per cent).

"Employers have an important role to play in their employees' wellness, physically, mentally and financially. Their actions can positively impact the level of engagement and productivity of their teams, which in the long-term can impact their bottom line," added Reibel.

About the Manulife Financial Wellness study

Environics Research Group surveyed 2,024 Canadians, 18 and over, between August 31 and September 7, 2016, asking them about budgeting, retirement, investments, debt, protection and stress. Respondents were equally split along gender lines, average age was 47, and quotas and weighting were used to ensure that results reflected the Canadian reality in terms of age, gender and region.

This survey was designed as an index and is intended to be repeated annually to create an informative track of Canadians' financial wellness over time.

More details about the Manulife Financial Wellness Index are available here.

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