The vicious circle of financial stress and mental health

by: Laurie Swinton, ACS, FLMI, FFSI
Director, Communication Services

It is an all too common scenario. You start experiencing financial difficulties, causing stress at home and at work. It starts affecting your sleep, relationships and overall mental health, forcing you to take time off work—at a reduced salary. You feel like your problems are compounding and it gets harder and harder to climb out of the abyss.

The link between financial health and mental health can often be a vicious circle.

Consider these startling statistics:
  • A 2018 Manulife bank survey reported that half of Canadians in debt are stressed about their level of debt
  • According to the 2018 Sanofi health care survey, 33 per cent of plan members said they’ve experienced high levels of stress on a typical day over the past three months. That figure rises to 50 per cent among those in poor financial health. Of those who reported high levels of stress, personal finances was cited as the biggest source of stress, higher than workloads and personal relationships

  • So what can we do as professionals in an industry that deals with both mental health and financial health?

  • Help raise awareness about the link between mental health and financial health. Review claims practices and provide training to people in your organization on the front lines.
  • Take a holistic approach to health in member and company wellness programs, focusing on physical, mental and financial health.
  • Provide tools and resources that encourage healthy habits. BestLifeRewarded Innovations and CARROT Insights are two examples of companies that have rewards-based apps and programs that have been successful at changing behaviours.
  • Many employee assistance programs offer financial counselling services. Make employees and plan members aware of all the services EAP programs provide.
  • Talk the talk. While many companies have made progress reducing the stigma surrounding mental health issues with programs like Not Myself Today, talking about finances is still taboo. Encourage people to reach out if they need help.

  • October is Mental Health Awareness Month and November is Financial Literacy Month. What better time to start the conversation and take action to address the financial health and mental health of Canadians.