Today's economy

The economy is affecting young Canadians’ health

By Kevin Press,

Comments (18)

Image of a generation Y woman.We received a bit of good news recently. Eric, the young man I’ve been writing about in our Class of 2008 series, has landed a full-time job. What’s more, it’s in his chosen field. Eric has joined a private school’s communications department. He’s responsible for its website, graphic design and community outreach.

Almost four years after graduation, Eric’s finally left the ranks of the underemployed. That it took him this long and that the process tested him so severely is a sign of how difficult it is for young adults in today’s economy.

The new Sun Life Canadian Health Index research study, released today, paints a staggering picture. Nine in 10 Canadians aged 18 to 24 describe at least one source of excessive or uncomfortable stress in their lives. The national average for all ages is 72%.

The four leading causes of stress, in order of prevalence, are not unexpected: personal or household finances; personal relationships; work life; and a health condition or personal health issues. What is surprising are the numbers of young Canadians stressed out about these issues.

Table from the Sun Life Canadian Health Index.Source: Sun Life Canadian Health Index™

I think it’s telling that two of these four leading causes of stress relate to employment: personal finances and work life. Given that the national unemployment rate among Canadians 15 to 24 has been stuck at about 15% since the economic downturn (about twice the national average now), it’s clear that young adults in this country are facing tough odds.

But the unemployment rate doesn’t tell the full story. We asked respondents to the Canadian Health Index survey if they would describe themselves as underemployed or underutilized. Nationally, 28% said yes. Here again though, the results among Canadians 18 to 24 compare unfavourably. Four in 10 (39%) of young adults in that age group told our researchers that they’re underemployed. Interestingly, we got about the same result (38%) from respondents 25 to 34.

Not all the news is bad. For those of us lucky enough to be employed, the study supports the widely held belief that work is good for us.  Across a range of measures — physical health, emotional and psychological health and overall health — Canadians who are employed full-time are more likely than part-time workers to report that they feel well. And part-time workers are more likely than the unemployed to say the same.

Employed Canadians even expect to live longer. Full-time workers expect to live to 80 on average. Part-time workers expect to live a year longer than that. Meanwhile, the unemployed don’t expect to make it to 78.

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Friday Links on

[…] This week Brighter Life wrote a very interesting post about how The Economy is Affecting Young Canadians’ Health. […]

Melissa Ward on

Being an 18-24 year old, I can confirm these findings are very true. I’m proud to be with such a great company that recognizes intelligent, hard-working, young adults. We have the ability to succeed and accomplish big things but if we can’t get there, what a waste of education, time, money, and potential.

Darren Sproat (@DarrenSproat) on

It would be really interesting to see today’s stats compared to those of 20 years ago… especially in Saskatchewan. Our unemployment rate today is half what it was then and I remember a time when 2 of 3 friends or family members had to move to the United States or Alberta/Ontario to seek opportunity. It would be an interesting study.

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