A majority of working Canadians are feeling overwhelmed by stress, and the situation is particularly dire among young employees, according to results from the third annual Sun Life Canadian Health Index.
According to the index, which is based on the results of an Ipsos Reid poll, 90% of 18- to 24-year-olds reported excessive or uncomfortable levels of stress. This is higher than the national average of 72% who said they felt similarly high levels of stress.
“The stress level among young Canadians is really quite extraordinary,” says Kevin Press, assistant vice-president, market insights, with Sun Life. “We assumed that we were going to see a level of stress among young Canadians that was higher than the national average. But that nine in ten would describe at least one source of excessive or uncomfortable stress, we find to be striking.”
High stress factors
Asked to identify sources of stress, finances and work life were the two most cited factors among all Canadians. Personal relationships and health issues were also highly ranked as stress triggers.
Underemployment also appears to be a key factor in stress levels. According to the index, almost 30% of Canadians say they are in a job that doesn’t fully challenge them or draw upon their levels of education and experience. That figure is even higher among those in the 18 to 24 demographic, with 39% indicating they feel underemployed.
Press says the high levels of underemployment among young people are part of a greater employment challenge in that age group.
“What’s happening to young Canadians in this economy really bears further study. Statistics Canada puts the unemployment rate for 15- to-24-year-olds at about 15%. It’s been that way ever since the downturn in 2008. That’s more than double the national unemployment rate,” he says.
Need for wellness initiatives
Press says the results of the index drive home the notion that employers should ensure they have properly-designed wellness initiatives in place to support their employers through stressful periods.
“Anyone responsible for a workplace understands that some stress is good, but that when stress becomes unmanageable for your people, you get into productivity issues.”
Press notes that almost half (46%) of respondents said they don’t have the supports they need to manage the stress in their lives, while 80% of respondents said they believe their employer should play a role in helping them manage that stress.
He says that the key to creating wellness programs that effectively support employees is for employers to work with consultants to determine which stress triggers are affecting which employee populations, and then ensure initiatives are offered to meet those needs.