More than a quarter (38 per cent) of plan members say they’ve experienced a high level of stress on a typical day over the past three months, up from 27 per cent in 2022 and exceeding the previous high mark recorded in 2021 (35 per cent), according to the 2023 Benefits Canada Healthcare Survey.

The survey, which polled more than 1,000 group benefits plan members, found those in poor mental health (65 per cent) and poor overall health (63 per cent) were far more likely to report high levels of stress, as were those with caregiving responsibilities (57 per cent) or who had a major injury or illness in the past 12 months (53 per cent).

Respondents’ top three sources of stress — personal finances (38 per cent), workload (32 per cent) and work-life balance (30 per cent) — haven’t changed since 2018. Notably, interactions with people at work (20 per cent) continue to be less of a factor in causing stress for respondents, ranking sixth in 2023 compared to fourth in early 2020, prior to the start of the pandemic.

Read: 93% of U.S. employees experiencing stress, mainly due to finances: survey

“One thing that rings true is the higher baseline of stress people are experiencing,” said Anna Fisher, health and wellness director at Flight Centre Travel Group Americas and a member of the survey’s advisory board, in the report. “We need to operate on the assumption that our employees are at a higher risk of mental-health issues. Leadership training and supportive work environments — so employees know they can take extra breaks, for example — are more important than ever.”

Nearly one in five (18 per cent) plan members described their mental health as generally poor, with the percentage surging to 74 per cent among those who described their overall health as poor. Nine out of 10 (89 per cent) reported their overall health was generally good (45 per cent), very good (32 per cent) or excellent (11 per cent) over the past year.

However, reports of poor health in 2023 (11 per cent) were higher among plan members who also
described their mental health as poor (45 per cent), felt their health benefits plan doesn’t meet their needs (32 per cent) and who weren’t satisfied with their job (22 per cent).

A fifth (18 per cent) of respondents said they have a diagnosed mental-health condition, such as depression or anxiety and this group was much more likely to describe their mental health as
generally poor over the past year (44 per cent). As with overall health, perceptions of poor mental health were higher among members who felt their benefits plans doesn’t meet their needs (44 per cent) and who were not satisfied with their job (40 per cent).

Read: Many Canadians planning to switch jobs for better benefits: survey