Most people don’t realize just how closely intertwined financial wellness and personal health truly are. But when finances get out of hand, the stress and anxiety that ensue are enough to create serious physical and mental health problems.
According to a recent survey conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA), money stress weighs heavily on American health. The results of the study, conducted since 2007 – at the beginning of the Great Recession – show that money and finances are the top stress inducing factor in American life, regardless of the economic climate.
The APA survey polled more than 3,000 adult Americans and found that 72 percent of people reported feeling stressed about money during the previous 12 months. Nearly one in four Americans (22 percent) say they’ve experienced “extreme stress” about money over the previous month. The majority of Americans (64 percent) say money is a moderate source of stress.
Whatever the case may be, financial stress is taking a toll on Americans of every socioeconomic status, race, occupation, and background. And, as with most stress, it can have an impact on physical and emotional health.
“Some are putting their health-care needs on hold because of financial concerns,” the APA survey explains. “Nearly 1 in 5 Americans say that they have either considered skipping (9 percent) or skipped (12 percent) going to a doctor when they needed health care because of financial concerns. Stress about money also affects relationships: Almost a third of adults with partners (31 percent) report that money is a major source of conflict in their relationships.”
The APA survey isn’t the only body of research that has picked up on this alarming trend. According to a 2017 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey published by Willis Towers Watson, only 35 percent of American employees are satisfied with their financial situation (down from 48 percent in 2015). More than half of all Americans (59 percent) say they worry about their future financial state, while 34 percent say financial concerns negatively affect their lives.
Everyone responds differently to stress, but some of the common health and wellness issues associated with chronic stress and anxiety include:
- Too much stress leads to hyperarousal, which makes it nearly impossible to fall asleep. In severe cases, people can stay awake for multiple days at a time. This leads to additional health problems that facilitate a painful cycle.
- The adrenaline produced by stress actually causes vascular changes to the brain. Over an extended period of time, this stress can lead to headaches or migraines.
- Poor memory. The cortisol hormone – produced by stress – actually weakens the brain’s ability to form new memories. This is why people experiencing long-term stress report having a weak
- Hair loss. Believe it or not, stress actually can cause your hair to fall out. This can happen naturally (known as alopecia areata) or as a result of physically pulling hair out of the scalp (trichotillomania).
These are just a few of the physical health issues that arise from chronic financial stress. Other issues include high blood pressure, increased risk of heart attack, low sex drive, poor skin health, poor dietary habits, and joint pain.
When a car breaks down, most people get it fixed right away. When a pipe is leaking in the basement, a homeowner immediately calls a plumber. When problems arise, people pursue solutions. So, why do Americans neglect the effects of financial stress on their physical health?
For most people, financial stress seems normal. They assume it’s something they’ll always have to deal with, so there’s no sense in making a fuss about it. But this simply isn’t true. Whether you have a salary of $30,000 or $300,000, there are practical steps you can take to lower money-related stress and find freedom from the grips of financial anxiety.
The first thing you need to do is invest in yourself. When you make investments in yourself – in the form of education, self-care, and fiscal responsibility – you can improve your financial situation, lower, stress, and improve overall health and well-being.
Secondly, you need support. According to the APA survey, “Americans who say they have someone they can ask for emotional support, such as family and friends, report lower stress levels and better related outcomes than those without emotional support.”
Unfortunately, one in five Americans report having no one to rely on for emotional support. Among this group, 43 percent of people say their financial stress increases on a yearly basis. With that being said, it’s important to find someone whom you can confide in.
There is no greater investment you can make than an investment in your personal health. By taking control of your finances, you can lessen your risk of suffering both acute health problems and chronic illnesses. Remember to make smart choices, invest in yourself, and find emotional support among your peers.