The State of South Africans Mental Health | Legacy BlueStar | Sanlam Financial Planners Bellville, Cape Town


The state of South Africans’ mental health

Fifty-four per cent of South Africans are unable to make their money stretch to month end and this is impacting their mental health. These are recent statistics from the Sanlam campaign Letter to My Pre Covid-19 Self conducted through a survey of 1 200 South African respondents by Ova to You.

It is imperative to make the best possible financial decisions in very trying circumstances. The survey was aimed at determining what respondents wish they’d known or done before Covid-19.

Covid-19 has taken its toll on most, if not all, of us and might also have impacted our mental health. We’re likely to keep seeing this impact for years to come. The survey showed that above anything else, most people wished their pre-pandemic selves had saved more, highlighting the impact money has had as a stressor on our mental well-being.

key findings

Some key findings from the survey show how South Africans are feeling currently in comparison to what they wish they could write to their pre-pandemic selves:

  • Fifty-seven per cent of respondents cited financial stress had the most impact on their mental well-being.
  • Financial stress hit young people aged 18-24 years the hardest, especially women.
  • Older people were more concerned about the economy and the state of South Africa and were impacted by negative news.
  • Loss and grief impacted all ages, with 24% of respondents citing loss and grief and 22% saying isolation and loneliness had a mental impact.

Childcare and family stress were most felt by women, taking a mental toll. However, 20% of male respondents aged between 25 and 39 also listed childcare and family responsibilities as a factor that had a mental impact.


It was found that during the pandemic 21% of the respondents went on prescription medication to help with stress and anxiety. In addition, 21% invested in online and physical exercise options that were available. Twelve per cent sought counselling or therapy, while others started taking health supplements and turned to natural remedies, along with meditation and mindfulness.

Post-pandemic, about 35% of respondents said they now always make time for self-care by prioritising their physical and mental well-being. Most of these are younger men with an income of less than R10 000 a month. Close to 59% said they make time when they can (likely to be older: 40+ years), and 6,7% said they never make time for self-care.


Some of the responses to the question of what they’d write to their pre-pandemic selves about what they’ve learned about their well-being were the following:

“That 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.” - Male, 30-39 years old, Gauteng, Household Income R30k+.

“I've learned that I must start taking my mental health seriously and avoid anything that could affect it.” - Female, 18-24 years old, North West, Household Income less than R10k.


Most respondents wanted to tell their pre-pandemic selves to take time to enjoy the simple things in life and the moments with loved ones, as well as to manage their finances better and start an emergency fund.

It’s evident that financial stress has a mental and physical impact on our well-being. Therefore, it is important to speak to a financial adviser about tools to help you come up with an achievable holistic plan. We also want to empower South Africans to pursue their goals and make smart money decisions to live their best lives. We have financial advisers available to help you make the right decisions for yourself and your loved ones.

Sanlam Limited is the Licensed Controlling Company of the Sanlam Limited Insurance Group.

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