A six month study has been started by Insurer AXA to assess the impact financial education in the workplace could have on the financial wealth and health of the nation.

The experiment is in response to findings published by AXA last year, which found that nearly 25 million Britons were suffering from financial anxiety, and 1.4 million taking time off as a result. With average household debt (excluding mortgages) now standing at almost £9,000 and an average of over £30,000 for each individual (including mortgages) money worries continue to be the biggest cause of stress and depression in the UK, with stress-related illness costing £3.7bn a year in lost productivity and healthcare costs.

AXA aims to use financial education in the workplace as a way of tackling the UK’s attitude to financial money management.

Paul McMahon, Managing Director of AXA Corporate Benefits, said:

“There can be no doubt that the UK consumer faces a complex range of financial issues from high levels of personal debt to lack of planning for retirement. We know that the national annual savings gap now exceeds £27bn with 13 million people at work having little, if any, retirement provision. But while we know issues like this exist, there’s no agreement on what the solutions should be.

“We have previously asked the Government to take the lead in creating a more financially capable public by offering a set of incentives to both individuals and companies. We hope that this experiment will go some way to proving the benefits of allowing individuals to engage with money matters in a working environment which in turn will lead, we believe, to improved productivity, reduced sickness absence, greater employee engagement and enhanced loyalty to the employer.”

The six-month study will take place with Story Worldwide – an international content marketing agency. Half of Story’s employees will have access to three distinct methods of financial guidance – one-to-one support with an Independent Financial Adviser, a dedicated adviser telephone support service and some self-help guides, including online resources. Group sessions on generic financial needs will also be completed throughout the six months. The others, who will act as a control group, will be left to their own devices. Regular comparisons will be made on how each group is coping both from a wealth and health perspective.