Nine out of 10 Canadians anticipate financial challenges if they were to experience a major or chronic illness, but more than half are not prepared for it, according to the second annual Sun Life Canadian Health Index compiled by Ipsos Reid.

The study found that despite these high awareness levels, only 58% of respondents are either preparing, or are currently prepared financially in case they get sick. Only 8% of Canadians have a written financial plan that includes insurance and risk management—two elements that address the economic impact that could come with a major health problem.

“Canadians’ understanding of the connections between health and personal finances are hard-earned,” said Kevin Strain, senior vice-president, individual insurance and investments, Sun Life Financial Canada. “We found the majority of Canadians have either personally experienced or have had someone close to them suffer a serious health issue. However, fewer than one in five said they had evaluated or re-visited their finances following the experience.”

Overall, many Canadians expect a long life. On average, respondents anticipate living 81.5 years, almost a year more than the Statistics Canada reported average of 80.7 years.

Eighty-six per cent of Canadians agree that they will need to purchase health insurance to help fund their healthcare needs, as the public system will not be able to maintain current funding levels as the population ages and costs rise. Seven out of 10 respondents (72%) think they will probably need some form of long-term care as they age.

“We want Canadians to feel empowered about their finances, especially when it comes to planning for long-term care or the financial impact of a major illness,” said Strain. “The last thing anyone wants to worry about is money when making important decisions about their health. Working with an advisor to create a financial plan that includes protection will ease the tension during an already stressful time.”