COVID-19 relief measures and lifestyle changes triggered by the pandemic may be behind a rise in credit scores across Canada, according to a new study by fintech company Borrowell.

The report published Thursday found the average credit score in the country improved by 18 points in the past year, going up from the “below average” category to a “fair” score of 667 points.

Missed payments during the same period decreased by 33 per cent, from three missed payments per 10 consumers to just two payments. Borrowell defines a missed payment as any payment recorded on a credit report that is at least 30 days past due.

The findings suggest government aid programs are helping Canadians struggling due to the pandemic stay financially afloat, while cautious spending and better habits may have allowed those with more stable financial situations to improve their credit.

But the report also finds there’s a huge disparity in the financial security of different segments of the population, with consumers who have low credit scores being 432 times more likely to miss their bill payments than those in the highest credit score tier.

“It’s clear that consumers with low credit scores have experienced more difficulty over the past year than other Canadians,” Borrowell Co-Founder and CEO Andrew Graham said in a statement.

The findings are a result of Borrowell’s analysis of over one million Canadians’ credit scores and reports going from the first quarter of 2020 to the same quarter in 2021. The scores were provided by credit reporting agency Equifax.