Canadians Worried About Cancer, But Not Financially Prepared

Confident of recovery, but not of financial stability in event of a critical illness: Desjardins Financial Security Health Survey

(Toronto) June 8, 2011 � Canadians are more afraid of cancer than any other health concern, according to the 2011 Desjardins Financial Security (DFS) Health Survey being released today. Twenty-four per cent of survey respondents identify it as their greatest health fear. Interestingly, this is especially true for Canadians who feel that their physical health is good. Other top concerns identified by Canadians include Alzheimer’s disease or dementia (12.1 per cent), disability caused by an accident (9.9 per cent), a chronic illness such as MS or diabetes (8.3 per cent), aging (8 per cent), a heart attack (7.9 per cent) or a stroke (4.4 per cent).

Respondents are taking care of their health�

The survey suggests that Canadians feel they are taking care of their health. More than two thirds feel that adopting a healthy lifestyle is a significant part of illness prevention. And 70 per cent have made significant personal changes to their lifestyle in order to be healthier. In addition, despite their health fears, close to two-thirds of respondents were confident they would survive a critical illness.

“This is encouraging,” said Dr. Robert Buckman of the Princess Margaret Hospital. “The results indicate that people no longer think of cancer as a death sentence. However, I think we need to recognize that it’s impossible to prevent all cancers. A healthy lifestyle is important, but it isn’t a silver bullet.”

�but what about their finances?

The results also show that while Canadians feel they are doing what they can to improve their physical health, many aren’t taking necessary steps to financially prepare. Almost three-quarters of respondents feel that the health care system will not cover all the costs related to the treatment of a critical illness and 64 per cent are worried that they could not afford the balance. Sixty-seven per cent say an illness would make them financially vulnerable and they would likely need to turn to family for financial support. Close to the same number feel that creating an emergency fund in case of a future serious illness was important. Most alarmingly, almost threequarters of Canadians have taken no steps to financially prepare for a possible critical illness.

The Public Health Agency of Canada estimates that the lifetime costs of cancer treatment in Canada is between $25,000 to $30,000, depending on the diagnosis and other contributing factors. According to Theresa Boily, marketing director at DFS, “That’s why it’s important for Canadians to have a financial plan in place to protect themselves and their families against the financial repercussions of a serious health problem. Unfortunately it’s still impossible to prevent all critical illnesses.”

Respondents of the Desjardins Financial Security Health Survey are particularly honest when it came to possible financial short-falls during a critical illness recovery. A little over half (53 per cent) feel they would be able to cover their every-day expenses like food, housing, transportation and clothing, or pay monthly bills (48.7 per cent). If faced with a critical illness that caused them significant financial hardship close to their ideal retirement age, 63 per cent would put if off in order to rebuild their retirement savings.

Surprisingly, when asked which life event would cause them the greatest financial difficulty, 28.4 per cent say that a job loss would be more devastating than a critical illness diagnosis (25.2 per cent).

Regional Results

Atlantic Canada

  • All survey respondents were asked to evaluate their physical and psychological health; the survey indicates that Atlantic Canada has both the most physically and most psychologically healthy provinces:
    • PEI has the highest percentage of respondents who feel their physical health is excellent: 32.1 per cent compared to 10.8 per cent nationally.
    • Newfoundland and Labrador has the highest percentage of respondents who feel their psychological health is excellent: 39.8 per cent compared to 24.1 per cent nationally.


  • Quebecers are the most comfortable with the financial implications of critical illness; on almost every measure, they are the most confident:
    • Nationally, 65.4 per cent totally or somewhat agreed that they feel the need to save in case of a critical illness, while only 49.5 per cent in Quebec did.
    • While 73.5 per cent of Canadians strongly or somewhat feel that not all the medical costs of a critical illness would be covered by the health care system, only 60.3 per cent in Quebec feel that way.


  • Torontonians perceive themselves to be healthier than do Ontarians living outside Toronto: 17.0 per cent in Toronto say their health was excellent, compared to 9.8 per cent in the rest of the province.
  • Ontarians are the least confident that family and friends would take care of them during the treatment of and recovery from a critical illness: only 23.2 per cent totally agree compared to 28.8 per cent nationally and 35.3 per cent in BC.


  • The Prairie region has the province that identified itself as the least physically healthy: 10.2 per cent of people in Saskatchewan identified their physical health as being poor, compared to 4.9 per cent nationally.


  • People in Vancouver feel they were more likely to experience the greatest financial
    difficulties due to a job loss, compared to respondents in the rest of BC.
  • British Columbians are highly concerned about the financial consequences of critical illness, compared to the rest of the country:
    • 76.0 per cent totally or somewhat agree they need to save money in case of future health problems compared to 65.4 per cent nationally.
    • 81.2 per cent totally or somewhat agree that the healthcare system would cover only some of their medical costs in the case of a critical illness, compared to 73.5 per cent nationally.

About the Survey

SOM Surveys, Opinion Polls and Marketing conducted this Web survey on behalf of Desjardins Financial Security from April 13 to 20, 2011. In total, 2,115 questionnaires were completed with a sample of Canadian Internet users aged 18 to 64 years old. The data was weighted to reflect the distribution of the Canadian population aged 18 to 64 years old in terms of gender and mother tongue distributions in 14 regions (Atlantic Provinces, Quebec CMA and elsewhere in Quebec, Toronto CMA and elsewhere in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Calgary CMA and elsewhere in Alberta, Vancouver CMA and elsewhere in British Columbia). The data was also weighted to reflect the population distributions in terms of the joint age-gender distribution and the proportion of adults who live alone in Quebec, Ontario and elsewhere in Canada.

About Desjardins Financial Security

Desjardins Financial Security, a subsidiary of Desjardins Group, the leading cooperative financial group in Canada, specializes in providing life and health insurance and retirement savings products to individuals and groups. Every day, over five million Canadians rely on Desjardins Financial Security to ensure their financial security. Desjardins Financial Security employs some 4,000 people and administers $27.1 billion in assets from offices in several cities across the country, including Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montr�al, Qu�bec, L�vis, Halifax and St. John’s. For more information, visit our website at