Shame and embarrassment often impede Canadians from acknowledging their personal financial struggles, a new study – commissioned by financial services group Manulife – on health and wealth finds.

“The stigma, shame and embarrassment of being financially unwell often prevents people from taking action to address and overcome these issues,” said Manulife executive VP and general manager of group benefits and retirement solutions Sue Reibel.

“We believe that the industry as a whole has a bigger role to play in helping remove these stigmas. Only once an individual is comfortable discussing their own money problems, can they begin to take steps to address them.”

According to professional counsellors surveyed in this study, conducted in partnership with Homewood Health Inc., these emotional barriers often have a negative impact on the health of Canadians.

The study, released on Oct. 25, shows that these feelings can lead to a perpetual cycle of mental and physical health problems, reducing both quality of life and productivity at work.

The professional counsellors responded that many Canadians are unable to talk about their own financial challenges because of their intimate nature, with one stating “It’s very personal, sometimes more personal than sex. When I ask clients if they want to talk about money, they are not very open.”

Key findings of the Emotional Barriers to Financial Wellness – 2017 study include:

Nearly half (46 per cent) of professional counsellors feel it’s difficult for individuals suffering from financial health issues to reveal these issues mainly due to shame and embarrassment.

Seventy-four per cent of professional counsellors feel that personal finances have a high impact on emotional and mental health.

Half the time, financial challenges are an underlying element beneath the issues for which people seek support from counsellors.

Only one in three professional counsellors see people making the connection between their finances and other life problems.

“Our industry can help remove these stigmas by encouraging those going through financial challenges to discuss these problems more openly, and to take advantage of free and accessible tools that help alleviate financial distress, which can lead to anxiety, depression and stress,” said Reibel.

(Professional counsellors are defined as those professionals that address a full range of mental health issues including but not limited to family and relationship issues, trauma, depression, anger management, life transitions and personal issues).

The study was conducted between April 2016 and July 2017 in three phases, starting with qualitative interviews with nine professional Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) Counsellors. This was followed by a quantitative survey of 223 EFAP Counsellors.

The final phase was five key qualitative interviews with professional EFAP Counsellors.

Written by Inhalton