In 2022, Desjardins Insurance asked Ad Hoc Research to survey Canadians about wellness1 to confirm our theory that overall wellness isn't just about physical, mental and financial well-being: it also has an environmental and a social component. That theory has now been confirmed. Both of these aspects are essential parts of a person's overall wellness.
Before we go over the survey's results in greater detail, let's see how each of the 5 dimensions is defined:
- Physical: a state of good physical health, with no disease or disability
- Mental: a mental state that allows someone to reach their full potential and cope with life's normal stresses
- Financial: the level of confidence someone has in their financial ability to deal with day-to-day issues over the long term, plan for the future and achieve their goals
- Social: the ability to maintain meaningful relationships and networks, and to interact with individuals and communities
- Environmental: the ability to live and work in a safe and healthy environment
The recent survey found that 3 out of 4 people rate their wellness as good (a score of at least 7 out of 10), but less than 1 in 4 rate it as very good (a score of 9 or 10 out of 10). However, overall wellness scores were lower for members of the LGBTQ+ community, people who are unhappy with their weight and those who suffer from chronic health issues.
Unsurprisingly, the 3 dimensions with the biggest impact on overall wellness are physical, mental and financial health. Yet Canadians believe that the environmental and social aspects must also be considered, since they are closely related to the other 3.
In terms of social wellness:
- Most Canadians say that the ability to easily establish and maintain social ties can improve one's overall wellness.
- When asked, respondents between the ages of 18 and 30 were most likely to say that social wellness was one of the top contributors to their overall wellness.
- Despite its importance, Canadian adults describe their social wellness as just “moderately good”—suggesting that this dimension may require closer attention.
As for environmental wellness:
- 96% of respondents agree that living, working and studying in a safe and healthy environment can enhance overall wellness.
- Canadians, especially those over 50, believe that their environmental wellness is better than all other aspects that were evaluated.
- People who have a chronic illness or are unhappy with their weight are more aware of how their environment affects their overall wellness, compared to the rest of the population.
The economy and the environment are our biggest concerns
The survey asked respondents how concerned they were about 20 issues, of which the environmental dimension and the threat of climate change ranked third. But inflation and finances are still the biggest concerns for all genders and age groups across Canada. More specifically, we saw that:
- Canadian-born respondents were more concerned about inflation, as well as more likely to list it as one of their biggest concerns (52%), compared to newcomers who have been here for up to 6 years (36%) or first-generation Canadians who have been here for 6 years or more (39%).
- Finances are one of the biggest concerns of members of the LGBTQ+ community (48%) and newcomers (52%).
- Women worry more than men about most of the issues listed.
Although these 3 issues are mostly related to the financial and environmental dimensions of wellness, we should point out that they can affect all other dimensions. For example, a Desjardins survey of a market research online community (MROC) found that most respondents believe financial hardship is linked to poor mental and physical health (symptoms such as stress, insomnia and an inability to concentrate).2
Expectations for Canadian employers
Weighed down by these concerns, Canadians expect their employer to help them enhance their well-being. Most people think that their employer plays an important role in the financial (84%) and mental (73%) dimensions of their wellness. The survey
found this was the case across the country, but especially in Ontario. It's worth noting that the survey's findings show that youth (under age 30), women and first-generation Canadians expect more support from their employer for their social wellness.
Overall, what employers are currently doing appears to be in line with the factors that employees view as having the greatest impact on their well-being. Employers who want to go above and beyond in this respect would do well to focus on certain initiatives that are believed to enhance wellness but still aren't offered by many organizations, such as:
- Offering a "wellness" account or an amount to cover fitness-related expenses
- Offering an allowance for equipment needed to work from home
- Offering employee-friendly schedules
Employer support matters, and it's not just about being kind to employees. It also affects employee retention. In fact, nearly 8 out of 10 respondents said that they would be more inclined to stay with their employer for the long term if they had more benefits. It's therefore worth investing in the various ways an organization can support its employees. Survey respondents viewed them as absolutely critical.
A few years (or even just a few months) ago, the findings of a survey of this kind would probably have been very different. We're in a period marked by new challenges and issues that must be faced by people of all ages. From now on, any organization that wants to develop an effective workplace wellness strategy will have to consider all aspects of well-being: physical, mental, financial, environmental and social.
1 Desjardins Insurance, Quantitative Study of Overall Wellness by Ad Hoc Research for Desjardins, December 2022. Survey of 2,000 respondents over 18 years of age, living in Canada, including both members and non-members of Desjardins.
2 Desjardins MROC, Overall Health in Quebec and Ontario, 2022. Survey of 148 participants ages 18 and up in Quebec and Ontario, including both members and non-members of Desjardins.