Forty-eight per cent of Canadians say their current income “makes it hard to save and plan ahead.” That’s according to the 2016 Sun Life Canadian Health Index.
For the first time in its 7-year history, the study includes a financial component in our examination of overall health. We define financial health as “a state of overall well-being where a person can fully meet current and future financial obligations to enjoy the things that matter most in life.”
On a scale of 0 to 100, 47% rate their financial health at 75 or higher. That’s a low number relative to the percentage of Canadians who rank their physical and mental health in the top quartile: 64% and 71% respectively.
Three in 10 Canadians are insecure about their financial health (18% are somewhat insecure and 12% are very insecure). Another 24% are neither secure nor insecure. Half feel secure (36% somewhat secure and 10% very secure).
These numbers reflect a mixed bag of economic reports and a lingering sense among many Canadians that our recovery from the financial crisis is languishing.
On one hand, the S&P/TSX Composite index is up 13% year to date as of mid-November. On the other, the national unemployment rate is 7%, a figure it’s hovered around since mid-2012. And Canada’s Consumer Price Index rose a paltry 1.5% between October 2015 and October 2016. That’s below the Bank of Canada’s 2% annual inflation rate target.
Add persistent low interest rates that make it more difficult to save for long-term goals like retirement, and you get ample cause for anxiety.
Sure enough, 8 out of 10 Canadians say they’re experiencing 1 or more sources of “stress [they] are uncomfortable with.” Of the top 4 triggers, 3 have to do with money: 45% are stressed by their personal/household finances; 32% about trying to maintain a budget; and 31% about unexpected expenses.
We’ve posted a lot about the connections between personal health and personal finances. It’s not just about the rise in out-of-pocket health expenses. The links between stress and both emotional and physical health have been widely studied.
Short-term bursts of stress can benefit your immune system. But chronic stress – the sort often experienced by Canadians with money worries – has the reverse effect. It can also make the symptoms of a variety of diseases worse.
Step 1 is to embrace this expanded definition of health. Efforts to improve our well-being that don’t include physical, emotional and financial elements are a bit like a 2-legged stool – less expensive but tough to balance.