New Zealanders' perception of their health and well-being has fallen in the last year and remains well below the global average, research shows.

A survey by insurer Cigna of more than 14,000 adults across 23 countries, questioned people about five key aspects of their lives. Perceptions on physical health, family, social, financial and work were then pulled together into a global index rating, which compared New Zealand to other countries.

It found New Zealand's index rating fell from 62.7 to 60.8 between 2017 and 2018 while the global index also declined from 62.3 to 61.2 points.

A drop in social and family wellness indicators were the main drivers behind the decline for New Zealanders while physical and financial aspects improved.

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Socially, fewer Kiwis felt they were spending sufficient time with friends and family than a year ago.

There was also a drop in the number of people saying they were getting enough sleep, having good quality sleep and felt they were at a healthy weight.

Fewer people felt able to take care of their parents' health and wellbeing or were in a good position to fund their child's education.

Financially, Kiwis felt they were doing better than last year with the financial well-being index rising from 52.2 to 55.1.

But just 28 per cent of Kiwis described their financial situation as okay or good with less than one in five believing they would have enough money for retirement.

Fewer than one in five Kiwis also felt they would have financial security if they were unable to work.

Gail Costa, Cigna New Zealand chief executive, said the research showed New Zealanders' believed they had to stay focused on their current commitments to stay afloat, leaving little time to spend thinking about, or preparing for, their future.

"As we go through the many stages in our lives, our perceptions of our well-being will change, and at these various stages we should always re-assess ourselves and see how we can work toward preparing for the next milestone."

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Finances were a major factor in people feeling stressed, with 31 per cent pointing to money as the main cause of stress for them while 39 per cent said work was their main cause of stress.

New Zealand ranked fourth equal for the worst levels of unmanageable stress, with one in five respondents claiming their stress was unmanageable.

Mel MacPhee, head of human resources for Cigna, said its research showed work pressure, workload and performance expectations were behind the high stress levels.

"Even though they might be recent graduates the expectation that they would come in and perform was really high."

She also pointed to high incidences of workplace bullying in New Zealand.

Mel MacPhee, head of human resources at Cigna, said there's pressure on graduates to perform as soon as they enter the workforce. Photo/Supplied.
Mel MacPhee, head of human resources at Cigna, said there's pressure on graduates to perform as soon as they enter the workforce. Photo/Supplied.

"Any issues like that will have an impact. That people are finding it unmanageable is a big concern."

MacPhee said the 24 hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week nature of some roles meant people were under pressure to respond rapidly, which made it harder for people to switch off work.

"One thing that might not stress on individual might stress someone else."

MacPhee said it was beholden on an employer to assess whether staff were under unmanageable stress.

"They need to recognise people are not going to do their best work if they are feeling stressed all the time."

Around 500 New Zealanders took part in the research.

Key findings from Cigna 360 Wellbeing survey
• Less than one in five are financially secure if unable to work
• 39 per cent said work was the main cause of stress, 31 per cent said finances were their main cause of stress
• New Zealand ranked fourth worst in the world for unmanageable stress
• New Zealand's overall health and wellbeing fell from 62.7 points in 2017 to 60.8 points in 2018.