Money is number one stressor in Kiwi lives, Southern Cross survey reveals

Money, work and health are the biggest sources of stress for Kiwis.
MARK CORNELL/FAIRFAX NZ

Money, work and health are the biggest sources of stress for Kiwis.

Money is the biggest stressor in Kiwis lives, and it is the young that are feeling it most.

Giant health insurer Southern Cross surveyed the nation on how often people were feeling stressed.

It found six in 10 felt stressed at least once a week, though it was the young, many of whom were trapped out of owning their own homes and into expensive renting, who were the most affected.

There's an epidemic of stress among the young, and money is the thing most commonly stressing them out.
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There's an epidemic of stress among the young, and money is the thing most commonly stressing them out.

Lack of money was the single biggest stressor, with one-third of the stressed pointing to "having enough money to live on" being their number one concern.

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A fifth of people said they worried about paying their bills, or the mortgage.

More than half of Kiwis do not get annual dental check-ups, and costs is the most common reason.
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More than half of Kiwis do not get annual dental check-ups, and costs is the most common reason.

This week has seen a drop in confidence in the property market, especially in Auckland where house prices have risen beyond the reach of young people not able to get a cash injection from wealthy parents.

The Southern Cross survey showed a clear divide between people over 50, where property ownership rates remain high, and younger people struggling to buy, or living with huge mortgage repayments.

Almost three-quarters of people under 50 felt stressed at least once a week, compared to just under 40 per cent of people aged 60 or over.

People are going to have to spend more on their healthcare, says Peter Tynan, chief executive of Southern Cross Health ...
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People are going to have to spend more on their healthcare, says Peter Tynan, chief executive of Southern Cross Health Society.

Money isn't the only burden. Workload and work-life balance were also causing pressure.

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Health concerns also figured highly in the survey, done by research agency Kantar TNS, with many claiming they were unable to afford things like dental care.

Four in ten people were not happy with their teeth, with most saying they simply couldn't afford dentists' fees.

Discoloured, missing and crooked teeth were the biggest concerns, but six in every 100 Kiwis were living with painful teeth, the survey found.

Only 44 per cent of people said they got annual or six-monthly dental check-ups.

That was actually an increase compared to October 2015, which dentists felt had been driven by the rise of payment plans and interest-free finance, both of which dental businesses have embraced.

These were interest-free finance and check-up plans for which people paid monthly,

Lumino's Kerry Dunphy said both its 18-month interest-free finance deal with Q Card, and also its $25-a-month check-up and X-ray payment plan were proving popular.

David Crum, dentist and chief executive of the New Zealand Dental Association, felt people believed people who claimed they could not afford dental care were giving a "convenient" excuse for deciding to spend money on other, less important things.

The Consumer Price Index basket of goods and services, designed to replicate household spending preferences, showed 4.26 per cent spent on healthcare (including health insurance), compared to 7.47 per cent on alcohol and tobacco.

Crum said the nation spent more on things like pet food and Lotto than dental care.

There were people who did not have the money to pay, but many families were not even using the free dental care for under-18s.

"People say that cost is the reason for not getting dental treatment, but when it is free, we still get the same level of uptake," he said.

Wide variations in dental fees showed strong competition among dentists, he said, and people shopped around for their dental care.

Household budgets struggling to stretch to paying for private healthcare may be behind the survey finding that employer-sponsored super savings schemes and subsidised health insurance were the most popular perks offered by employers.

Free health checks came in fourth of the most favoured employment benefits.

Despite the state system, which treats patients for "free", already many are opting out of lengthy waiting lists, and paying for private surgery.

In the past two years, 14 per cent of people had private surgery. Roughly half of people said they would go private for surgery, with most using health insurance to pre-fund it.

Furry members of the family are also proving to be a health-dollar stressor for many, with a third of pet-owners telling Southern Cross they found it hard to pay vets bills.

Southern Cross Health Society chief executive Peter Tynan said the healthcare options for pet owners had been exploding, including expensive treatments like radiation treatment for cancer and hip replacements.

"There's very little you can't do to a cat or a dog that you can do to humans," he said.

Tynan said the number of Kiwis doing it tough, and being stressed at work, was incongruous set alongside historically low levels of unemployment, and the inability of people to afford houses was particularly frustrating for the young.

"Owning your own home is a sign of success in New Zealand," he said.

Not being able to achieve it, stressed young people out, he said.

The bad news is that Kiwis, who are being told they have to save more for their retirement, will also have to spend more on healthcare, Tynan said.

That was because of the rising healthcare bill for the government.

"It is inevitable there will have to be more contributed by the individual," he said.

 - Stuff

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