Canadians are feeling increasingly uneasy about turmoil in the global economy and many are planning to reduce or defer non-essential spending, according to a survey released Thursday by The Boston Consulting Group.

"Canadian consumers are already burdened by high debt levels and feelings of financial insecurity," Cliff Grevler, a partner in BCG's Toronto office, said in a statement on the survey's findings.

"Last week's volatility in the stock markets only exacerbated the situation."

The online survey of 1,000 adults conducted earlier this week found that a third of Canadians, or 33 per cent overall, felt financially insecure or in financial trouble, up eight percentage points since March.

And overall, 42 per cent planned to trim non-essential spending.

Such feelings of financial insecurity were higher among women — 38 per cent versus 29 per cent for men — and women were more likely to decrease spending (47 per cent versus 38 per cent for men).

'Canadians have clearly been spooked by last week's ups and downs in the stock market.' —Norman Baillie-David, vice-president of TNS Canada

Similar findings were reflected in the latest Canadian Consumer Confidence Index from TNS Canada, which showed an almost two-point drop to 97.6 in August from 99.7 in July.

"Canadians have clearly been spooked by last week's ups and downs in the stock market," said Norman Baillie-David, vice-president of TNS Canada and director of the marketing and social research firm's monthly tracking study.

"Even in the summer months, when you don't think people are paying much attention to the news or stock markets, these gyrations (in the markets) are having a significant impact on Canadians' view of the economy, as well as their own prospects," Baillie-David said.

Grevler said the BCG survey found consumers were increasingly looking to buy more products "on deal" and noted that the increased caution among female consumers was important since "we also know that women control over 70 per cent of household spending in Canada."

On a regional level, BCG found consumer insecurity was highest in Atlantic Canada at 43 per cent overall, followed by Quebec at 37 per cent.

The survey of adults aged 18 and older who regularly participate in shopping for their household had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points, BCG said.

The TNS confidence index tracks Canadians' attitudes about the economy each month and is part of a global study conducted in 18 countries. The Canadian survey, involving telephone interviews with 1,015 Canadian adults Aug. 8-12, had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.