Forty per cent of Canadians facing financial hardship after serious health event

Sun Life Canadian Health Index™ reveals Canadians aged 45 to 54 hardest hit by unforeseen healthcare costs

Toronto, ON (Sept. 30, 2013) – Canadians who have had a serious health event or diagnosis are feeling the pinch, with 40 per cent reporting financial hardship as a result. More than half (53 per cent) of 45- to 54-year-olds are struggling to make ends meet after a major health incident, according to the fourth annual Sun Life Canadian Health Index, conducted by Ipsos Reid.

Of those impacted by a personal health crisis, some highlights from the survey include:

  • 22 per cent turned to credit cards or personal lines of credit;
  • 22 per cent tapped into personal savings;
  • 12 per cent borrowed from a loved one; and
  • 5 per cent were forced to either remortgage or sell their home.

“Coping with a personal health crisis is difficult enough without the addition of financial strain,” said Kevin Dougherty, President, Sun Life Financial Canada. “We have seen first-hand the devastating impact that serious health issues can have on an individual and their families. The short-term financial impacts are overwhelming and immediate, but there can also be longer-term negative implications on retirement plans. Having a financial plan can help to deal with the unexpected.”

While a majority of Canadians (82 per cent) realize that a serious health event could impact their personal finances, few (13 per cent) have money set aside for uncovered healthcare costs. These health events are dire and include heart attack, stroke, cancer, coronary bypass, chronic diseases, degenerative disorders, terminal illnesses and serious accidents. A fifth of Canadians (20 per cent) have no group insurance, personal insurance or health expense savings to help absorb the shock.

Juggling childcare and eldercare, managing mortgages and retirement planning, can leave Canadians overextended and ill-equipped for surprise expenses, especially healthcare costs not covered by government or employer plans.

“Canadians aged 45 to 54, commonly referred to as the sandwich generation, also have a unique set of priorities that include caring for their children and their parents while working and saving for their own retirement. This explains why they’re more deeply affected by unplanned healthcare costs,” said Alison Griffiths, financial columnist and commentator. “With job instability and a tough economic climate, many are stretched too thin. A large portion of sandwichers are nearing retirement, but may be forced to delay these plans to recoup financial losses.”

Seventy-seven per cent of Canadians report they are experiencing excessive levels of stress, a five percentage point increase over the previous year. Finances are the most likely cause of excessive stress across all age brackets. Though 45 to 54 year olds face the most financial pressure, generation Y bears the larger stress burden at 84 per cent.

Visit Sun Life for more key findings and results from the 2013 Sun Life Canadian Health Index. For more information on tips on healthy living and financial planning, visit

About the survey

The Sun Life Canadian Health Index measures the attitudes of Canadians towards healthy lifestyles and reports these in the form of an index.

The fourth annual Sun Life Canadian Health Index is based on the findings of an Ipsos Reid poll conducted between May 10-24, 2013. A sample of 2,400 Canadians from 18 to 80 years of age from the Ipsos Canadian panel was interviewed online.

Ipsos employed weighting to balance demographics and ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the adult population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe.

The precision of Ipsos online surveys is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the survey is accurate to within + / – 2 percentage points had all Canadian adults been polled. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to methodological change, coverage error and measurement error.

About Sun Life Financial

Sun Life Financial is a leading international financial services organization providing a diverse range of protection and wealth accumulation products and services to individuals and corporate customers. Sun Life Financial and its partners have operations in key markets worldwide, including Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Japan, Indonesia, India, China, Australia, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia and Bermuda. As of June 30, 2013, the Sun Life Financial group of companies had total assets under management of $591 billion. Sun Life Financial Inc. trades on the Toronto (TSX), New York (NYSE) and Philippine (PSE) stock exchanges under the ticker symbol SLF. For more information, please visit

Source: Sun Life Financial Inc.