Today's economy

Why are Canadians so stressed out?

By Kevin Press,

Comments (45)

More than three-quarters of adults live with at least one source of excessive stress. Not surprisingly, money is the most likely cause.
Why are Canadians so stressed out?

It is hardly news that a majority of adult Canadians are stressed out about their finances. With household debt at a record high, unemployment stuck above 7% and a tentative recovery that today looks less steady thanks to Washington politics, it stands to reason that many of us feel anxious.

The 2013 Sun Life Canadian Health IndexTM makes clear not just how widespread this angst is, but also how many different ways we’re finding to worry about money.

We asked respondents if they are experiencing one or more sources of “excessive” or “uncomfortable” stress. More than three-quarters (77%) answered yes. That’s five percentage points greater than the result we saw in the 2012 survey.

The most common stressor is “personal or household finances.” Forty-one per cent of Canadians cited that as a source of excessive stress. But that’s just one example. More than health or any other driver, money and career issues are weighing us down: 29% said “trying to maintain a budget;” 26%, “unexpected expenses;” 25%, “my work life;” 23%, “saving enough for retirement;” 14%, “the state of the economy;” and another 14%, “trying to find a job.”

Chart - Canadians stressed

As was the case last year, young adults are the most likely to be troubled by their stress levels. Among Canadians aged 18 to 24, 84% said they have at least one source of excessive stress in their lives. The next-highest result was among respondents 35 to 44 (83% said the same). Other age groups reporting excessive stress: 78% of those 25 to 34; 81% of those 45 to 54; 75% of those 55 to 64; and 63% of those 65 or older.

While it is clear that we grow more capable of managing stress as we age, the primary drivers of stress among 18-to-24-year-old Canadians suggest that it’s tough for young people to establish themselves in today’s economy. Two of the top three drivers were “personal or household finances” (40% said it was a source of excessive stress) and “trying to find a job” (39% said the same). The top source was “personal relationships” (45%). The numbers told a similar story last year.

Regionally, the results are remarkably consistent. In B.C., 75% described at least one source of excessive stress. The same is true of 75% in Alberta; 73% in Saskatchewan; 80% in Manitoba; 79% in Ontario; 77% in Quebec and 77% in Atlantic Canada.

Image of the Sun Life whimsical sun - Money for Life Are you on track to meet your financial and retirement planning goals?
It’s never too early or too late to start! For a FREE review of your financial plan, Talk to an Advisor.

Keep up to date on what’s happening in the capital markets and the real economy.
Subscribe to receive Today’s economy blog automatically by RSS or email.

Stay connected

Get more tips and tools to help you live brighter.

Enter your email address below:

Learn more

How money-savvy are you?

Will your choices help you reach your financial goals?

Try our Financial habits quiz.

Take action

Are you on track to meet your financial and retirement planning goals?

It's never too early or too late to start!

For a FREE review of your financial plan: Talk to an Advisor.

nick on

Useless article. Adds no value or proposed solution

1. Stress is good for you upto a level. This article does not talk about whether the surveyed people are below or above the threshold
2. Compare Canadians to Americans. Benchmark instead of just looking at data in isolation
3. Categorize to make better sense of survey results
4. Now compare Canadians to people living in developing countries. The concern on ‘financial stress’ will be highlighted in context


    Chris on

    @nick I think you’re missing the point of this article entirely.
    1. I agree that stress is good for you, but not when people are indicating that it is “uncomfortable” or “excessive” as was made clear in the article and the study, so the point about a “threshold” is moot here.
    2. The value of comparing Canadians to Americans or developing countries might be interesting, but not relevant in this article, whose headline is “Why are Canadians so stressed out?”, along with a great summary of the top reasons.
    3. The article did a great job of summarizing the results in categories, as the author has a paragraph dedicated to how “money and career issues are weighing us down”.

Jasbir Singh on

I would also offer that another source of stress for Canadians is the fact that Canadians are too nice. This brings forth the problem of not being able to say “no”. In other words, according to psychiatrist, Gabor Mate, not being able to say “no” can be bad for your health.

After 25 years of practicing family medicine and chronic illness, Mate found that when people have a hard time saying “no”, then their bodies will say it for them in the form of illness. All types of conditions can result: cancer, multiple sclerosis, auto immune chronic fatigue, asthma, etc.

He found that people with such conditions have common personality traits. They are very nice, inappropriately cheerful, and can’t get angry in a healthy fashion. They’re very sweet and dutiful, and so eager to please that they can’t say “no” (i.e. they always end up saying “yes”). Brain scans have shown that this kind of personality causes stress to the immune system (an actual physiological event). People who are stressed and have compromised their own immune system may not even know it. In fact, the awareness of stress can also shut down, which exacerbates the problem.

For more information on this interesting theory, read here:

frostback on

You didn’t mention ‘Rob Ford. ‘

karyn on

Canadians are stressed out, not through a lack of working or effort, but because Canada itself works against Canadians to keep them poor and suffering: wages that stagnate while living costs skyrocket; new taxes compounded against already exorbitant taxes; commuting expenses that far exceed what you are paid; groceries that increase in cost as you lose your job. Canada is a broken, corrupt country that serves only the rich. The dollar is tanking. Things have gotten harder and harder in the last few years and they will continue to get harder unless you make plans to leave Canada. I know this is not always possible, but try to invest, or spend time, or work toward things outside of Canada – because Canada is a doomed country with an economy a lot worse off than Canadians are led to believe: you are all feeling it, but are in denial. Shed Canada from your life and you will find some prosperity.

    Wayne Sharp on

    i agree karyn and will retire out of country likely!

    cricket on

    It’s not better anywhere else. Instead of running away from your problems or hiding from them why not face them and push for change in policies and change in government. Those things have no power without people like you. And yeah money is always going to be a big part of everything, but money is not the super power of the world, even that comes from you and where you choose to put it. I think that if Canadians stood taller and showed some backbone instead of shrinking away in apathy and making excuses as to why they can’t and hiding in apathy then you would see real change. This country is beautiful and rich in ways that other countries are not, I would say that is definately worth fighting for, tooth and nail if you have to.

      Mark on

      I am a Canadian since 1985 and it is true that life here has become much harder (especially in Quebec). The dollar does not buy you half of what it used to. Taxes are extremely high and salaries stayed the same for about 10 years now. Corruption is everywhere and incentive to small businesses are scarce (Canada was a leader in entrepreneurship incentives).

      However, saying to the Average Canadian that we have to do something, that Canad is no leader but follower, that we have a bad leadership and the reply I get from some is “You don’t like it, leave”.

      The problem with Canada is Canadians. Canadians are not used to change. They hate change. The status quo is much easier than changing. Canada today in so many ways is exactly the way it was 30 years ago, very little changes here.We became complacent and overall content. Everybody will point out that we have it great here and so on. That is true, Canada is a great place to live…for now. However, it used to be a much better place and it’s eroding quickly.

      A great example is our eroding industry. From a leader in technology Canada is now behind dozens of countries that were smart and quick to change to the high tech environment.

      Canada? Oh no, tech leaders with their infinite arrogance stayed the same until they vanished. Corel and Blackberry are only two of many examples of the way of thinking and the will to embrace change.

      My point is that my wife and me will not retire in Canada because it does not offer any incentives and if we wanted to change something, Canadian will be in our way😦

barry on

Inflation adjusted we make less today then 50 years ago, is it any wonder money problems cause stress, modern progress has benefited the top few percent, we work harder and increase productivity and they pocket the gains leaving us poor and worried about the future. Hooray for harpers canada, when he finishes eliminating ei, cpp, odsp, welfare and minimum wage his corporate friends will rejoice and we will all be living on the street (unless public uproar such as against doctors and engineers having to take jobs at mcdonalds gets rid of him first)

Adrian D. Thysse on

Wow. Global climate change, world population growth, environmental degradation, unsustainable economic policies plus Harper’s Conservatives attacks on science, the environment and democracy… none of these stress Canadians? We are lost.

Gth Wilson on

Number one reason for Canadian stress .. Is Americans😛

dcapit8 on

There is certainly a conspiracy to funnel money away from the lower and middle classes to the 1%. Many things cost much more than they need to. If we had a democratic government, it would be trying to provide our basic energy and phones and homes and cars and televisions and computers nearer what they actually cost to produce. Any 1500 sq ft house can be built for around $100,000…. Phone lines were once owned by government and now look at the huge “telecom industry worth $billions” – all that money CAME FROM US.

On the other hand, the point was made in comments already – people with lots of money just live above their means – and is that worth the stress to have shiney garbage? I have long been amazed at how people who have $40,000/yr incomes “don’t have enough money”…. the excuse about children costing a lot comes up, but really only single parents and those with less than $40G have it tough.

I lived on $10,000/yr for 15 years.

sisiboo on

Bogus report. Canadians are among least stressed folks anywhere.

Lori A Brewer on

Why stress over Finances or anything/anyone else for that matter? WE are GUARANTEED OF CHANGE’S & that my friends is ONE of the things that is PERMANENT~

Grace on

“While it is clear that we grow more capable of managing stress as we age”
Clearly you forget that the stresses mentioned such as mortgages, child expenses etc. are no longer a factor in the lives of older people. Iit is not that they can deal with stress better, there are simply less factors involving money which is, unfortunately, the major stress factor in most households.

Shangey G. on

Welcome to Capitalism.

Mississauga Anxiety Counselling on


This is one of the most common topics I find people come into my office to talk about. Stress from finances, relationships, work – Canadian’s are busy running the “race”, with less down time, personal time, and, most importantly, relaxation time.

The good news is that with patience, persistence, and positive attitude, we can learn new life skills, better relaxation techniques, and learn to savour the moment with the help of a trained professional.

Dear Prudence on

How about in too much of a rush each & every day! Rush when you get up, drive in traffic, rushed at work, then on the way home, then rushed for the home duties, kids, deadlines for bills, work, & then having to listen to TV & radio announcers talk like auctioneers. It never stops.

Jas Khera on

Seems like we have to pay a premium for everything under the sun. For example, why do we have to pay 100 to 200 percent more for cell phone bills than other countries? Why do we have have to pay 30 to 50 percent more for consumer items than our counterparts in the U.S.? We have too many monopolies in this country.

NA on

Canadians like to think they’re special in the world, like their circumstances somehow make them immune to reality, so they bury their heads in their own perceptions of life, oblivious to the real world out there. This comes from the attitude of “don’t rock the boat” spineless complacency that’s beaten into their heads from birth.

This result of this survey is a symptom of that.

The Word on

The excessively loud ear piercing, high decibel cars and trucks today cause me most stress. We are being bombarded by noise by the greedy automotive industry and the loud and proud ignoramus’ out there who buy them and think it’s cool.

Daniel W. on

Do you think that higher earnings will resolve this stress? If so, how much is the minimum income you would need and are there any conditions?

Sadie on

The most amazing thing to me is that 23% of people report no major stressors in their lives. I have 3 major stressors right now, and just losing my job only comes third on that list. I have never lived without multiple major sources of stress in my life. Fear is my constant companion. I can’t imagine what it must be like to not be under stress.

Mark G. on

Low wages, high housing prices, high food prices, high dental care costs, the list goes on.

Bharat on

not surprised by the statistics

In addition to financial stress caused by very poor growth rate, very poor job opportunities, very high unemployment rate, over valued real estate despite decades of poor growth rate, and high inflation

Canada has some serious issues as far as imposing impractical rules and regulations on its citizens

Take the example of ontario

For instance, If a person wants to get a Driver’s license, it takes freakin 1.5 yrs. You have to go through Road test 1,II,III,IV etc. On the other hand look at New York . They have very practical rules for waiting time after getting learner’s license. People who are under 18yrs should wait for 6 months and for others there is NO waiting time.
By the way, new YORK also have just 1 Road Test

other examples – For getting a Canadian passport, people have to stand upside down and pray to sun god. Get 2 references who know you personally for 2 yrs LOL , get guarantor signature, if you don’t have a guarantor get 4 references who know you for 2 yrs. Plain stupid rules

For getting a pharmacist license, immigrants have to go through,, Test 1, TEST 2, TEST 3, TEST 4, TEST5 ???
is it some kind of organized crime going on?

Auto insurance – New insurers have to pay at least 300 dollars per month while in the US people pay just 50$/month

Organized crime – prizes of homes in Canada are over prized by 70%

Canadian authorities are overcautious, impractical and make the lives of its people miserable in addition to their financial stress and terrible winter is another stress factor

Why Canadians wouldn’t be stressed?

Rob on

The survey missed one essential element.
“Having a federal Government that is destroying the country”.

    josh on

    The Government’s a joke!

O on

Why? Just look at our Southern neighbour!

    Mark on

    We should not look at others and feel better, we should look within us. If we did I am sure many if not all would say that there is SO MUCH we need to change. I would not know where to start.

Jenna F. on

Yikes! I concur with the levels of stress as I have been observing this on the faces of people I meet. It’s sadly more common than one can know. I personally think the stress is due to the cost of living here in Canada and this burden is being carried by few people because Canada has a smaller population although its a huge country. The Federal Govt. should allow foreign born professionals the opportunity to work in their field when they immigrant to Canada to help contribute to the economy. I met a Physician from Pakistan working as a waiter in Red Lobster because he wasn’t able to practice as a doctor. He told me that e was planning to go to school to get into IT.

    Kathryn Bilton on

    Canada has strick guidelines regarding our healthcare system. Immigrants need to pass Royal College exams to show that they meet our requirements. That’s why we have a healthy society. Do you actually think we would let just anyone practice here? Duh!

      Mark on

      Nonsense, white Canadians with their infinite arrogance think that white English education is better than anyone else. Don’t forget the roots of this country, British. However, as Britain evolved and changed in the last 50 years like you would not believe, Canada stayed with the same line of thinking.

      Two years ago there was a TV segment on two doctors that came from, I think, Romania. The husband was a heart surgeon and the wife was a dentist. Both practiced medicine for over 15 years, none was allowed to practice here. In the US, Israel and many other countries they would have taken a couple of exams and then practice medicine under supervision for a year or so. If all is well, they would be certified and we would have two very experienced doctors helping the fading, tired and lousy medicare system we have here.

      But no, the snobs and the self-righteous in this country would much prefer if those two ran a convenient store instead. And they do, until this day.

      Face reality Kathryn, it is not enough to pass exams here. In almost all cases, professionals like doctors, nurses, engineers etc are asked to go back to school again. What stupid arrogance.

    Jesse on

    I think that you are right. One of the things that people must know about Canada is that we pay the most for goods and services out of all of the first world countries. We have the highest cost of living and we don’t have the highest income. As well our dollar is traditionally lower than the euro, pound, American dollar, and other currencies. A decent home pretty much anywhere in the country is at least 300, 000 dollars; even one bedroom condos are in the 250 000 to 350 000 dollar range. It’s very, very stressful. I am a single male. I make a decent wage. I have to work 12 hours a day 7 days a week just to pay my high rent, bills, medication, gas, insurance and other costs. I also put a little into savings every month. It’s a huge commitment and a lot of discipline just to save a little every month and meet my obligations. I have a twenty year old vehicle that is paid for. So I don’t have a vehicle payment. If I did I would not save anything. Again, I am a single male in my prime with no children. I couldn’t imagine having a family to take care of and having a low paying job. Or even having a well paying job. It must be absolutely painful. I have so much stress just maintaining as it is. Props to everyone out there that is working hard to have a decent life. For all the people out there working hard, obeying the law and contributing to society in a positive way, I salute you. It’s not easy. Life gets us down but we have to continue to help others and be good people. Good luck.

      nick on

      Educate yourself on how to increase your income versus working for wages on an hourly basis.
      LEARN how to make money leveraging other people’s time.

      The rich will be rich and poor will be poor if you continue to do the same thing you have been doing for the past decade.

      Transform your mindset.

chrazzy8's on

They failed to mention the added stress of having to care for a sick loved one and having to deal with Sun Life insurance!

    Anne Levy-Ward on

    So sorry to hear you’re having trouble. If you can send specifics regarding the policyholder (account number, name, date of birth) to, we’d like to alert the Sun Life team. Thanks.

      CDNCitizen on

      That is really WRONG to ask the person who commented for such personal information. That person should deal with Sun Life directly about their complaints. I really hope said person did not send their info.

AY on

Because they live in Canada and they have not traveled out to places like Chicago or Atlanta

    Wyld Black Wolf on

    AY on October 10, 2013 at 4:25 am
    Because they live in Canada and they have not traveled out to places like Chicago or Atlanta

    okay dude you’re obviously misinformed. we canadians DON’T just stuff facts like that so easily into one package . YES some of us have travelled to chicago atlanta new york, washington just to name a few . where ever did you get THAT stupid idea that canadians don’t travel? or that we’re not familiar with the stateside end of things? i believe you’d want to recheck your mental processes there dude and look to see if there IS anything amiss with YOUR information. as far as i can see from here , there is.

Carl on

This is frightening, I had no idea people were this stressed and the % was this high.
For sure most of us tend to be living above our means, and a major factor I believe is the bombardment of ads we see and we want to be like the “Jones”, or the rich and famous.
Not to mention the age we live in wanting always to be doing something like going out buying new gadgets we really do not need.
Unless we stop and take a deep breath, look at what really is all we need for a good healthy life, things will only get worst.
There really is nothing wrong with reading a good book, spend time talking with friends and family and I do not mean on the I-pad, twitter, Facebook etc.
Take a daily walk, enjoy the parks, the lake nature.
One does not need designer clothe for that matter a lot of clothe, bigger TV, newer and more expensive car.
Nothing wrong with a simple life and unselfish life … doing something for someone instead of wanting something done for you.
Go visit someone sick, bet you know someone or volunteer in an old age home, call someone who is lonely, there are plenty people who is, the list goes on.
I bet you your life would be less stressed and more fulfilling.
A bit of exercise, sunshine, fresh air, eating healthy food and more rest will definitely help to reduce stress and make a happier life.
Try it what have you to lose?

    Super Man on

    An exceptional piece of wisdom. Many of us simply do not get it.

    Mihail Tofan on

    If all that you’re mentioning could only feed my children.
    What you mentioned above pretty much only apply to teenagers or single adults. In no way does it apply to stressed out parents that struggle to provide while pay is slashed and inflation just skyrockets at an overwhelming speed overnight.

Daniel Workman on

Many thanks for sharing this — I felt a sense of calm as I carefully reviewed these findings. Identifying and quantifying stress causes are excellent first steps towards finding relief solutions.

Add a new comment:

Note: Please be sure to read our commenting policy and terms and conditions for this site. We reserve the right to delete any comments that we view to be in violation of our policy. The name you provide will appear next to your comment. Thank you!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Free financial review - Start now!
Get the Money for Life newsletter

Connect to your Brighter Life