9 in 10 young Canadians experiencing excessive stress: Survey

Majority of workers believe employer should help manage stress

The instability in today's economy is contributing to high stress levels in young Canadians, with 90 per cent of 18 to 24 year olds experiencing excessive stress and 72 per cent of adult Canadians feeling overwhelmed, according to the third annual Sun Life Canadian Health Index.

Finances and work life are cited as two of the biggest sources of anxiety for all Canadians surveyed, according to the index. Other top sources of stress include personal relationships and personal health issues.

"We're concerned to see the impact of economic instability on young Canadians with nine in 10 feeling excessively stressed," said Kevin Dougherty, president of Sun Life Financial Canada. "This finding is consistent with what we are seeing is our disability claims business — for Canadians age 30 and under, 40 per cent of their long term disability claims relate to mental health."

The index also found that the employment landscape in Canada is changing with almost 30 per cent of Canadians saying they are underemployed, under-utilized and not able to make full use of their skills and abilities. Underemployment is highest amongst young Canadians — with 39 per cent of 18 to 24 year olds feeling under-utilized, found the index, which polled 3,000 Canadians.

"These results are consistent with Canada's national unemployment rate sitting at close to 15 per cent for Canadians under 25, more than twice the Canadian average," said Louis Theriault, director of health economics at the Conference Board of Canada. "It is more difficult for young Canadians to find permanent full-time jobs that suit their skills and areas of study. Recent job creation has been dominated by part-time work — which is becoming a trend in Canada. This impacts younger workers in particular and contributes to their higher stress level."

Drivers of stress such as socio-economic factors, financial security and unemployment have a significant impact on the emotional and physical health of Canadians. Seventy-five per cent of Canadians working full-time rate their emotional health as very good or excellent, compared to only two-thirds of part-time workers (67 per cent) and just over one-half of the unemployed (56 per cent), found the index.

"This report endorses the belief that employment has a positive effect on one's overall health," said Ian Arnold, recently retired chair of the Workforce Advisory Committee for the Mental Health Commission of Canada. "Positive elements that are attributed to having a full-time job do help to keep illnesses at bay and Canadians optimistic while maintaining a healthy lifestyle."

Eighty per cent of Canadians believe their employers should play a role in helping to manage stress. Almost one-half (46 per cent) of unemployed Canadians don't have the support they need to manage the stress in their lives. Among those 18 to 24 year olds who are experiencing excessive stress, 37 per cent don't have the support they need to manage the stress in their lives.

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