What do finances have to do with our mental health? Quite a lot, actually.

“When we look at surveys where we ask what causes you stress, the answer that tops the charts is consistently personal finance,” said Marie-Hélène Pelletier, assistant vice-president for workplace mental health at Sun Life Financial, during Benefits Canada’s Mental Health Summit in Toronto.

The statistics bear that out. According to the Sun Life Canadian health index survey, 78 per cent of Canadians said they were dealing with excessive stress. The top three reasons were financial: personal or household finances (41 per cent), trying to maintain a budget (31 per cent) and unexpected expenses (30 per cent).

“[Personal finance] gets in our life; it gets in our sleep, in our self-esteem, in our relationships.” According to the Financial Planning Standards Council, 46 per cent lose sleep over personal finance, 45 per cent are embarrassed about the situation and 40 per cent of couples argue about finances.

Read: Integrated programs key to successful workplace mental-health strategies

While Pelletier noted society is talking more about mental health in the workplace, it also needs to discuss financial wellness. “It’s not been absent,” she said. “No workplace is not touching it, but what I’m suggesting is to make it even more present, to communicate even more about it so we can really bring this benefit to everyone in the workplace.”

For example, employers can promote financial literacy and provide information so that employees can be more comfortable with finances. One piece of research found 60 per cent of Canadians say they don’t feel they have the knowledge they need to manage their personal finances, said Pelletier.

Employers should have a health strategy encompassing mental, physical and financial health that’s specific to their organizations, she said. “As we design our health programs, consider financial health as an integral part to it.”

Read more articles from the Mental Health Summit

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