Canadians are a cheerful bunch, according to new report conducted by the Globe & Mail. The online survey of nearly 2,500 adult Canadians, which was conducted in June 2018, found that 67 per cent of respondents are very happy, while 68 per cent say they are very satisfied with their lives. The results of the survey line up with other happiness-related reports that have found Canadians are among the happiest people in the world.
According to the results of the survey, Canadians are happy when they’re satisfied with their personal, family and social lives. Having good mental health and a sense of purpose also helps – and 67 per cent of respondents said they feel positive about their mental health. Another determining factor of happiness is the age of the respondents. Canadians 55 and older are happier than younger Canadians, says the survey.
Jacques Goulet, president of Sun Life Financial Canada, attributes our happiness as a nation to a strong sense of community and social safety net that we know is there if things get rough. “I think most Canadians would agree that these things give us significant peace of mind,” he says.
Of course, we can always be happier. Only 56 per cent of respondents said they were satisfied with their physical health, 54 per cent said they were satisfied with their work-life balance and 45 per cent were content with their amount of leisure time.
We asked Mr. Goulet to share his thoughts on how Canadians can get even happier, healthier and wealthier.
Q: In your opinion, what makes Canadians happy?
A: Happiness and satisfaction come from feeling that you’re able to make the best of your life. I’ve lived in other countries, and I can say that Canada’s social support structure makes a big difference in people’s everyday attitudes. In Canada we value our healthcare system. It’s not perfect, but it does add to a sense of security. If you were to stop people on the street and ask them what’s important to them, nine out of 10 would likely mention health or wealth, either for themselves or for their loved ones. Thankfully, in Canada, we have systems in place to help people with these things that are so near and dear to their hearts.
Q: What are the risks to Canadians’ health and wellbeing, and our overall happiness?
A: In Canada, as in many countries, we’ve migrated to an environment where the individual is becoming more and more responsible for their own well-being, especially financially and with regards to retirement. Being faced with an uncertain financial future is not good for your state of mind. So, it’s incumbent on people to have a great financial advisor to help them plan for the future and to invest their money well.
Q: Yet, the report shows that four in 10 Canadians think they’re falling behind financially.
A: With increasingly high costs of living, from housing to postsecondary education, it’s no surprise that Canadians worry about money. The complexity of finances and retirement planning only adds to this worry. I’m an actuary by training and even I find retirement planning to be overly complicated. And it’s not like golf, where if you send your ball in the water you can start over. If you get to 65 and you have not planned for your retirement and you don’t have enough money, you don’t get to start over.
Q: It seems as though Canadians are generally feeling good about their mental health, but mental health issues also seem to be on the rise.
A: We are seeing the volume of claims related to mental health increasing, but there are good things happening. We’re seeing more of a willingness to open up and engage with support. More employers are offering support and running mental health campaigns. At Sun Life, our employees can spend up to $12,500 a year for mental health services. Although our society is doing a good job and opening the doors for discussion, mental health stigma still exists and needs to be tackled.
Q: What changes can we implement to make our own lives better?
A: It’s important for people to break things down into smaller pieces. Thinking, “Geez, I need to save for retirement, it’s a major thing,” can be overwhelming. Take smaller steps. Plan for the next few years and don’t pressure yourself to organize your whole retirement right now. Also, get some professional advice. An expert can help with the parts of financial planning that are overly complex, and they can give you confidence that you’re moving in the right direction.
Q: How can Canadians get happier?
A: What we need is continued progress: More mental health awareness and acceptance, a greater level of engagement from employers on wellness, using technology to help Canadians access health services across the country, and continuing to build a rich sense of community and support. We also have to make sure everyone has the information they need to make good choices about their health and their finances. Financial and health literacy are key to unlocking so many of these doors.
Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.