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Manulife Employee Health Report Shows Drug Claims for Anti-Obesity Medications Increased More than 42% from 2022 to 2023; Findings also Highlight Growing Need for Substance Use Disorder Support 

  • Analysis Reveals Current Health Trends of Canadian Workforce 
May 31, 2024

Toronto – Manulife Canada today released its first ever Employee Health Report, offering key insights into the health of the Canadian workforce. The Employee Health Report takes a deep dive into rising health claims across the country to help organizations identify areas for investment in employee health and wellness, and to help Group Benefits members get more health from their benefits. 

This Employee Health Report highlights two major trends in the aggregate data that are impacting Canadians from coast-to-coast: the sharp increase in use of medication to treat obesity, and the rise in medications to treat substance abuse disorders. 

Canadian employers can play a critical role in supporting the overall health and well-being of their workforce. By leveraging the data and information in the Employee Health Report, employers can implement targeted health and wellness initiatives, like increased coverage for mental health services, voluntary onsite health screenings and clinics, hold wellness seminars and informational sessions and increase coverage for dietician and nutritional services. Data suggests that organizations who prioritize employee health experience a reduction in absenteeism and an increase in overall workforce health[1].

“As a proud health partner to the millions of Canadians we serve, we see firsthand how important it is for organizations to invest in their employees' health,” said Ashesh Desai, Head of Group Benefits for Manulife Canada. “The 2024 Employee Health Report highlights critical health trends that can affect all Canadians, underscoring the urgency of addressing holistic, end-to-end employee health."


Increasing use of medication to address obesity as a chronic health condition

Analysing the surge in unique claimants for anti-obesity medications underscores a rising trend towards medical intervention for obesity and weight-related issues. In 2023 alone, Manulife observed a significant 42.3 per cent increase in individuals using anti-obesity drugs[2], and a total increase of 91.9 per cent since 2020. Global media coverage on Ozempic® may also be contributing to the growing interest in these medications, though it is important to emphasize that it isn’t currently approved as an anti-obesity treatment by Health Canada and is therefore not part of the Report’s findings.

A deeper analysis of Manulife’s claims data shows that women represent 78.8 per cent of the total claimants compared to men at 21.2 per cent. Additionally, breakdowns by province reveal particularly stark increases in Ontario and British Columbia. TheEmployee Health Report’s findings suggest a heightened awareness and concern over weight management across all regions, as well as the increasing recognition of obesity as a chronic health issue.


Anti-obesity claimants by province 2023[3]

Female %

Male %

% of Claimants in Canada

YOY Growth%
















British Columbia





Atlantic Canada





Central Canada (MB/SK)





All of Canada






Nationwide Increase in Substance Use Disorder Treatment Claims 

The Employee Health Report highlights a notable 17.2 per cent jump in Canadians seeking treatment for substance use disorders, marking a 52 per cent increase since 2020. Included in the analysis are treatments used for substance use disorders involving alcohol and opioids. While indicative of a growing trend, it's important to note that the absolute percentages of those seeking treatment for substance use disorders is still a relatively small percentage of the ~5 million people in Canada insured by Manulife Group Benefits.


Substance use disorder treatment claimants by province 2023
Number of Claimants YOY Growth%







British Columbia


Atlantic Canada


Central Canada (MB/SK)


All of Canada


With increasing demand for medications to treat alcohol and opioid use disorder, the need for comprehensive treatment coverage, including programs like the Employee and Family Assistance Program, becomes increasingly important. These programs have the ability to help employees get the support they need while helping to optimize their functioning in the workplace.

"These results mean we can all do more to help foster healthier Canadian lives. Well-being is not just beneficial for bottom lines, but essential for employees' quality of life. With top organizations showing meaningful productivity gains - up to 13 additional days per employee compared to their counterparts[4] – it is clear that investing in employee health can pay off," said Desai. 

For more information, including ways to implement programs to improve employee health, visit


About Manulife

Manulife Financial Corporation is a leading international financial services provider, helping people make their decisions easier and lives better. With our global headquarters in Toronto, Canada, we provide financial advice and insurance, operating as Manulife across Canada, Asia, and Europe, and primarily as John Hancock in the United States. Through Manulife Investment Management, the global brand for our Global Wealth and Asset Management segment, we serve individuals, institutions, and retirement plan members worldwide. At the end of 2023, we had more than 38,000 employees, over 98,000 agents, and thousands of distribution partners, serving over 35 million customers. We trade as ‘MFC’ on the Toronto, New York, and the Philippine stock exchanges, and under ‘945’ in Hong Kong. 

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Media Contact                          

For Manulife: Emily Vear                                                               


[1]  Manulife Wellness Report, 2023

[2] This includes Saxenda®, Contrave® and Xenical®.

[3] Provincial breakdowns are provided here as a supplement to The Employee Health Report 2024.

[4] Manulife Wellness Report, 2023