Fidelity® Research Finds the Top Two Sources of Stress for American Workers Are Their Job and Finances

New Research Finds Health, Finances, Work, and Life are Intimately Connected in Expected and Unexpected Ways

BOSTON--()--Health, money, work and life all play a critical role in an individual’s total well-being, according to a recent study1 from Fidelity Investments. The study, based on responses from more than 9,000 workers and conducted in collaboration with researchers from the Stanford Center on Longevity and Cornell University, was designed to provide insight on the overall well-being of American workers. Fidelity’s survey and behavioral analysis focuses on the four domains of well-being, providing a unique view into how they are connected:

  • Financial (debt, savings, insurance, budgeting),
  • Health (physical health, mental health, healthy behaviors),
  • Work (work/life balance, career status and opportunities, burnout) and,
  • Life (personal satisfaction, sense of purpose, sources of stress, relationships).

“When it comes to total well-being programs, employers have traditionally focused on health, but have recently expanded efforts to include financial wellness. Financial wellness programs have gone a long way toward helping workers to create a budget they can live with and have helped many employees consolidate and/or minimize debt. The next step for employers is to account for their wellness at work and in life, as these are two critical dimensions of overall well-being that shouldn’t be overlooked,” said Jeanne Thompson, head of Global Workplace Insights, Fidelity Investments. “Taking a holistic view of financial and health wellness, in addition to work and life, provides a more complete assessment of employee well-being, which can help employers provide the right benefits to the right person at the right time.”

Building on Fidelity’s Financial Wellness assessment, Fidelity designed the survey to measure total well-being and used the results to assign a total well-being “score” for respondents within each domain of well-being – on a scale of 0-100, an individual with a score of 61 or higher was considered “well,” while a score of 60 or below was considered “unwell.”

While 77 percent of respondents were considered “well” when it comes to their overall well-being, more than two thirds (68 percent) of employees were “unwell” in at least one domain of well-being. Here are some key findings for each domain:

  • Employees are struggling most in the Financial domain, where 42 percent fall into the “unwell” category. Employees cited their finances as a major cause of stress, second only to job-related stress.
  • Results were mixed for the Work domain – despite being the leading cause of stress, almost two-thirds (63 percent) of workers were considered “well” in this domain, with 87 percent noting that they were satisfied with their jobs. However, 24 percent of employees reported struggling with limited career growth opportunities and 27 percent are battling feelings of burnout.
  • A third of employees were “unwell” in the Life domain, with 30 percent reporting that they frequently feel stressed.
  • Surprisingly, only 12 percent of employees were “unwell” in the Health domain even though many (39 percent) struggle with sedentary behavior.

Connecting the Dots: Money, Health, Work and Life are Intrinsically Connected

Fidelity’s research uncovered the extent to which the domains of well-being are interconnected, and how challenges in one well-being domain can have a negative impact on additional domains. Here are several key findings that emerged from the research:

  • Employees struggle with many sources of stress in their lives, but the biggest stressors are related to work and finances. As expected, stress related to work and finances impacted just about all employees in the survey, regardless of age, gender or income, and nearly all respondents (98 percent) reported feeling stressed in the past 3 months. Employees were most likely to report high levels of stress caused by their job (47 percent of participants), saving for the future (34 percent), paying off debt (33 percent) and their weight (30 percent). Family and friends were rarely a source of stress; in fact, having multiple close relationships is a leading indicator of overall well-being. In addition, sleep, coworkers and an individual’s boss were not significant sources of stress.
  • Employee debt2 is linked to lower productivity at work. Employees with the highest levels of debt have twice the absenteeism of those with the lowest levels of debt, and miss an additional full week of work more when comparing the two groups. When looking at various types of debt, past-due medical bills were the leading indicator of workplace absenteeism, with one in eight workers reporting struggling with unpaid medical bills. In addition, 84 percent of the people with unpaid medical bills are financially unwell, two thirds don’t get enough sleep and they miss an average of three additional days of work annually. More well-known forms of debt, like student loans and credit cards, were not a significant cause of employees missing work.
  • Those who struggle with debt2 also report health issues. When compared with workers who were not struggling with debt, workers with debt challenges are very unlikely to be in “excellent” health (only 14 percent of those struggling were in excellent health, compared with 35 percent of workers without debt issues); are significantly less likely to get enough sleep (35 percent vs. 54 percent) and are significantly more likely to be frequently stressed or anxious (46 percent vs. 26 percent).
  • Health and wealth are intrinsically connected. Achieving wellness in either the Health or Financial domains is extremely rare when facing challenges in the other – poor physical health generally correlates to poor financial health, and vice versa. According to the survey, only four percent of employees who had poor health ratings achieved strong financial wellness scores, yet 60 percent of people who are “well” in terms of health are also financially well.

About the Survey
Fidelity’s Total Well-Being survey analyzed responses from 9,315 workers across the U.S. who have a 401(k) or 403(b) account with Fidelity. Survey participants represented the full working age range (21-75, median of 45) and were distributed fairly evenly by generation (28% Millennial, 36% Gen X and 33% Baby Boomer) and gender (46% male, 54% female). About two-thirds (67%) had a college degree or higher. Additional details on the survey results are highlighted in this Fidelity Viewpoints article.

About Fidelity’s Financial Wellness program
Fidelity understands that employers are looking for help addressing the financial wellness needs of a broad spectrum of workers, ranging from individuals with basic financial needs to employees with more complex financial challenges, and recognize financial wellness can have a direct impact on workplace productivity, benefits engagement and optimization, and outcomes to drive workforce management. The Financial Wellness program demonstrates Fidelity’s commitment to helping address these broad needs while enabling employers to confidently achieve the outcomes they desire for their employees and their organization.

About Fidelity Investments
Fidelity’s mission is to inspire better futures and deliver better outcomes for the customers and businesses we serve. With assets under administration of $7.0 trillion, including managed assets of $2.5 trillion as of June 30, 2018, we focus on meeting the unique needs of a diverse set of customers: helping more than 27 million people invest their own life savings, 23,000 businesses manage employee benefit programs, as well as providing more than 12,500 financial advisory firms with investment and technology solutions to invest their own clients’ money. Privately held for 70 years, Fidelity employs more than 40,000 associates who are focused on the long-term success of our customers. For more information about Fidelity Investments, visit

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© 2018 FMR LLC. All rights reserved.

1 Unless otherwise noted, data represents the Fidelity Investments Total Well-Being Research online survey of 9,315 active Fidelity 401(k) and 403(b) participants from across the United States. The survey was conducted by Greenwald and Associates, an independent third-party research firm, on behalf of Fidelity in September 2017.
2 Debt score of 40 or below out of 100 is considered to be in the “at risk” category.


Fidelity Investments
Corporate Communications, 617-563-5800
Mike Shamrell, 617-563-1996

Release Summary

Fidelity released the results of our Total Well-being study.


Fidelity Investments
Corporate Communications, 617-563-5800
Mike Shamrell, 617-563-1996