Financially stressed South Africans wish they'd saved before pandemic: survey

27 October 2021 - 06:00
Financial worries are a big stressor for most South Africans. Stock image.
Financial worries are a big stressor for most South Africans. Stock image.
Image: 123RF/9NONG

Financial stress is taking its toll on South Africans, with about 54% unable to make their money stretch to the end of the month.

Coupled with constant worry about the health of their loved ones, this is impacting on their mental health.

These are some of the findings of a recent Sanlam survey conducted among 1,200 South Africans as part of its “Letters to My Pre-Covid-19 Self” campaign, asking people to reflect on what they wish they had known or done prior to the pandemic.



Farzana Botha, segment solutions manager at Sanlam Savings, said: “We’ve all gone through this major life event together and it has changed many of us in profound ways. We can’t underestimate the toll it has taken on our mental health. We’re likely to keep seeing the impact of this for years to come.

“The survey showed that above anything else, most people wish their former selves had saved more. It brought home the impact money has had as a stressor on mental wellbeing."

The survey found 57% of participants cited financial stress as having a huge effect on mental wellbeing.

This was followed by worry about their own and loved ones’ health (44%), and all the uncertainty brought about by the pandemic (38%).

Financial stress hit young people the hardest — those aged 18-24 were most mentally impacted by financial stress — and younger women were the hardest hit of all.

An infographic shows the top 10 mental stressors for South Africans.
An infographic shows the top 10 mental stressors for South Africans.
Image: Sanlam

In terms of what they would write to their pre-pandemic selves about what they’ve learned about wellbeing, a Gauteng man in the 30-39 age group said: “Everyone is susceptible to any manner of mental health issues, especially anxiety and depression. I’ve learned to seek psychological assistance in the form of therapy to assist me in managing anxiety in these trying times.”

The survey found most people wanted to tell their pre-Covid-19 selves to “take time to enjoy the simple things in life and the moments with loved ones” and to “manage your finances better and start an emergency fund”.

Botha said: “It takes tremendous courage to be so vulnerable. It’s clear many of us are going through so much and we need to create a culture where people feel comfortable talking about what they’re experiencing. It’s also obvious financial stress is having a huge toll.

“It’s never too late to turn a situation around. You’re not alone.”

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