Research that leads to change

Our Bright Papers and insight reports have helped us drive real change in our group benefits programs.

We partnered with Ipsos to survey almost 600 employers from across the country. Key insights from the survey include:

  • The priority of investing in mental health.
  • The shift towards more flexibility and choice in plans.
  • A strong demand for more digital solutions.

Results from this survey will help shape plan design and product offerings over the next few years.

This Designed for Health benchmark report offers in-depth analysis from our own large database of long-term disability claims. This report offers insights into the causes and risk factors for mental health issues. 

Key insights include: 

  • Mental health issues are the most common cause of long-term disability. 
  • Mental health-related claims account for 30% of claims overall.
  • Mental health-related claims are up 27% since 2014, growing much faster than any other claim type.

In March 2020, the volume of calls to government-run Telehealth Ontario, in Canada’s largest province, was overwhelming.* This prompted the addition of 1,300 phone lines and 130 nurses to meet the demand. But the demand for virtual care is not just pandemic related. 

Canada Health Infoway completed a survey pre-COVID-19. Results showed over 65% of Canadians want virtual care to be part of their benefit plans.*

Key insights from this report:

  • Employers see virtual care as an affordable, high-value addition to group plans.
  • Top-rated virtual care benefits include access to care outside of business hours and less time
    missed at work.
  • Phone or video conferencing can successfully resolve 70% of health-care questions.

* Sun Life Bright Paper: Virtual care. Its time has come.

This Bright Paper explores the recently completed pilots of two innovative solutions. We’ve made these part of our disability management toolkit and Extended Health Care (EHC) plans. 


Pharmacogenomic testing analyzes a person’s genetic makeup to learn how they will respond to a given drug. Testing helps physicians choose the right drugs and dosage to help get patients better, faster. Our partner on this pilot was the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). This study provided key insights as well as some great results: 

  • Pharmacogenomic testing has high acceptance. 80% of those approached agreed to take part
    in the study.
  • Testing early in the disability process resulted in a significant reduction in time off work.
  • Testing also resulted in reduction in severity of symptoms.  

Online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) 

CBT is a standard, effective treatment for a wide range of mental health concerns, including anxiety and depression. It helps patients manage feelings of distress by learning to change the way they think and behave. Research has shown that online CBT can be just as effective as in-person therapy in many cases.

Sun Life partnered with MindBeacon Health for two pilots. One applied online CBT to our disability claims management process. The second made online CBT available through our EHC plans. 

Key results and findings from the pilots: 

  • High engagement and satisfaction with therapy results. 
  • Participants saw a reduction in symptom severity. 
  • Strong benefit of early intervention. 

Our research helps our Clients:

  • Understand the issues and trends in our industry, and
  • Give their employees the group benefits support they need. 

With this research we also:

  • Provide direction on what actions our Clients can take, and
  • Show how new programs and technologies can affect their plan.

We’ll continue to lead and participate in the critical research that is shaping our industry.