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Two in five US workers feel overwhelmed by debt

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Two in five US workers feel overwhelmed by debt

A special report on Financial Wellbeing in this Mental Health Index reveals that one-third of workers are not financially confident about the next 10 years 

CHICAGO – TELUS Health (formerly LifeWorks), a global leader in employee health, today released a special report on Financial Wellbeing as part of its Mental Health Index that shows significant declines.

  • The US Mental Health Index score for February 2023 is 69.8 points out of 100, a reversal from recent improvements and sharp decline of 2.2 points from January 2023.
  • The Mental Health sub score of financial risk declined by 3.8 points from January.
  • The Financial Wellbeing Index score for February 2023 is 66.7 points out of 100, near the low point of 66.4 when it was launched in January 2021. 

Financial uncertainty and debt weigh heavily on mental health

  • The Index found that two in five workers (40 percent) feel overwhelmed by debt. The mental health and financial wellbeing scores for this group are 10 and 15 points below the national averages respectively. The 60 percent of employees who have never felt overwhelmed by debt have a mental health score of 76.7 and financial wellbeing score of 76.9 – both well above the national average.
  • More than a third (37 percent) of workers are not financially confident about the next 10 years, with 12 percent expecting at least some level of financial struggle.
  • Almost three quarters (71 percent) of people who feel overwhelmed have not reached out for financial advice or coaching, with 16 percent citing embarrassment as the reason. 

Emergency funds make a difference

  • Individuals who have emergency savings experience a mental health score of 75.9, six points higher than the national average. Workers without emergency savings have a mental health score of 51.7, about 18 points below the national average.
  • Workers who lack an emergency fund are five times more likely to believe they will be in a very difficult financial situation in the coming years. They are twice as likely to feel overwhelmed by debt and more than twice as likely to feel too embarrassed to ask for financial guidance.
  • More than one in ten workers (14 percent) chose an employer hardship or emergency fund as the most valuable employer offer of support. 

Workers seek help in building financial security

  • More than half (57 percent) of U.S. workers say they have not received financial advice for investing or retiring. In contrast, data shows that workers who have reached out to an independent financial advisor have a stronger mental health score (76.7) and financial wellbeing score (77).
  • More than a third (36 percent) say an automatic savings or investment plan would be the most valuable financial support their employer could offer aside from an employee matching or retirement savings plan.
  • More U.S. workers say they would leave their employer than those who say they would stay (32 percent versus 25 percent) if another employer were to offer a guaranteed income pension plan.

Comments from TELUS Health Chief Growth Officer, Juggy Sihota

“Working Americans are feeling the rising cost of living and are increasingly worried about their financial future, especially when it comes to repaying debt and saving for retirement. Through this period of uncertainty, workers are looking to be supported in ways they may not have been in the past. It’s important for employers to be aware of this shift, and to respond in order to attract and retain talented workers. Employers can adapt by making financial savings and investment plans more readily available, as well as consultation services to help educate and empower their employees.”

Comments from TELUS Health Global Leader, Business & Client Insights, Paula Allen

“This month, we saw the largest decline in mental health scores since April 2020. Many signs point to the rise in inflation as the main reason for this drop, given we know how important a sense of personal control is to mental health and wellbeing. The economic changes, on top of existing challenges we’ve been facing over the past three years, have put more than 65 percent of American workers at high or moderate mental health risk. Resources such as employee assistance programs and financial wellbeing programs have never been more important; however many are under-communicated. This is the time to change that.”

The full U.S. Mental Health Index report can be found here. This report includes additional insights on savings accumulation during the pandemic, gig workers, and more.

About the Mental Health Index

The survey by TELUS Health was conducted through an online survey from February 10 to 28, 2023 with 5,000 U.S. respondents who were employed within the last six months. The data has been statistically weighted to ensure the regional and gender composition of the sample reflect this population. 

The Mental Health Index is based on a response scoring system that then turns individual responses into point values. Higher point values are associated with better mental health and less mental health risk. Scores between 0 to 49 correspond with distress levels, scores between 50 to 79 correspond with strain levels and scores between 80 to 100 correspond with optimal levels of mental health. 

About TELUS Health

TELUS Health is a global health care leader serving people in more than 160 countries delivering both digital innovation and clinical services to improve total physical, mental and financial health and wellness across the full spectrum of primary and preventative care. By leveraging the power of technology to deliver connected solutions and services both in-person and virtually, TELUS Health is improving access to care and revolutionizing the flow of information while facilitating collaboration, efficiency, and productivity for physicians, pharmacists, health authorities, allied health care professionals, insurers, employers and people globally, progressing its vision of transforming health care and empowering people to live healthier lives.

Our clinical team is composed of renowned and passionate health professionals around the world delivering best-in-class people-centric care to hundreds of thousands of employers, professionals and their families.

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Media contact:
Jill Yetman
TELUS Media Relations