Negative Implications of Financial Stress on Your Health
Sixty-two percent of Americans claim to be stressed about money. Though we’ve come a long way since the financial crisis in 2008, people are not completely free of financial stress. alterIn fact, stress related to money issues is the second-most stress-inducing concern in American lives today—coming in second only to ‘the future of the nation’ as a significant source of social and emotional pressure.
Whether you have massive amounts of student debt or are facing a lost job, every stage of life seems to bring along some form of financial pressure. One survey found that 72% of Americans admitted to feeling stressed about money last month—and even more so for younger adults, like Millennials (75%), and parents (77%). Stress about finances is clearly at the forefront of many American minds, which poses a national concern in terms of the current costs of living and other economic factors.
Unfortunately, financial stress can do much more than just lower your credit score—it can also seriously affect your health, and not in a good way. Stress about money has already led many Americans to ignore or neglect their health care needs. Twenty percent of Americans have either considered missing or have missed an important doctor’s appointment because of financial concerns with their health insurance.
Americans must realize the negative impact that financial pressure can place on one’s physical, emotional and mental wellness. Otherwise, the entire nation will suffer from poor health stemming from the burdens of living in a capitalistic society. To avoid the negative implications of financial stress on your health, it is critical to understand how stress affects the body—and what you can to do to weaken its grip on you.
Money on the Mind: Financial Stress and Cognitive Function
Facing everyday struggles of poverty or financial stress places undue pressure on our cognitive abilities. If you’re confronted with a particular amount of financial pressure, you will have less mental capacity to complete other tasks and make plans. With every ounce of your focus absorbed by money, you will be unproductive, mentally drained, and less likely to succeed at work or in your regular routines.
For example, having to alter the structure of a mortgage can seem like an overwhelming process if you are a homeowner. Focusing on this responsibility will ultimately take away from your cognitive capacity to be productive in your daily life, as all of your attention will be on your current financial situation. Your usual, everyday routine will therefore be altered, which could bring about a change as minor as missing out on walking your dog in the evenings or as dangerous as forgetting to turn off the oven after cooking dinner.
One study by Science journal presented interesting research findings related to this topic; shoppers were asked to fill out questionnaires after being charged with either a small or large car repair bill. In the findings, lower-income shoppers had less cognitive control in completing the questionnaire when faced with the larger bill. The lesson here is that demonstrating a diminished cognitive performance is not a characteristic of poorer people, but a fact for anyone who must navigate contexts of poverty.
It is without a doubt a common sentiment among people struggling with money issues that the financial pressure overshadows their ability to think straight. Since living a normal life comes with many, many bills in this day and age, it’s tough not to have money on the mind. But when you let the stress mount alongside the bills, you run the risk of losing the cognitive capacity to complete daily tasks, work, and lead your usual life.
The Negative Effects of Financial Stress on the Body
In addition to financial stress’ effects on the mind, your income and financial well-being can lead to a range of troubling physical health conditions. Researchers claim that stress is the basic cause of 60% of all human disease and illness. Moreover, one in five Americans experience “extreme stress”on a regular basis, leading to shaking, depression, and heart palpitations.
For some, it may come as a surprise that financial stress would have any physical effect at all. After all, many people believe that stress is simply ‘in your head,’ but this is a typical misunderstanding. Stress is the way that we physiologically respond to threats, if you are financially stressed, your body will enter the same, adrenaline-fueled ‘fight or flight’ modus operandi as it would if you are stressed with a decision at work.
Regardless of the trigger, the body will adopt a range of physical, internal responses as a result of stress. Already, there are countless studies proving links between financial stress and migraines and insomnia, which can affect a person’s physical function. These responses can be manageable, or they can lead to some drastic, severe health issues.
The key is to pay attention to your body and be as in touch with the way your body feels on a daily basis. If it’s harder to breathe or your appetite has changed, you should see a doctor. Frankly, if you notice any changes at all in your regular physical function, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Be on the lookout for these common health conditions that can be ignited by financial stress:
- Eating disorders, like bulimia, anorexia or overeating
- Psoriasis or other skin conditions, like excessive acne or dryness
- High blood pressure
- Weight gain or loss
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Substance abuse
- Autoimmune diseases, like arthritis and lupus
Unfortunately, our bodies are not immune to the negative consequences of stress. Studies have even shown that money-related stressors and stress at work directly put a person at an increased risk for developing metabolic syndrome—a group of conditions that lead to heart disease and stroke. This risk was even further amplified if a person admitted to facing several incidents of money-related events that were stressful.
Since financial stress can cause a person to engage in a series of unhealthy behaviors, like smoking, drinking, or overeating, it is a concern for the overall health of our population to find better solutions for handling money pressures. Stress-related illnesses are all too common nowadays, and it is up to you to be in touch with your body so that your health does not suffer.
What You Can Do to Prevent Stress-Related Illness
Since 3 out of every 4 doctors’ visits are from stress-related ailments, costing America over $300 billion in medical bills and lost productivity every year, it is clear that prevention is a priority. Stress, very literally, can kill people. If your money management skills are lacking, you must understand that there are other ways you can immediately take control of the way stress is affecting your health.
We will all confront financial pressures during our lives to some degree, but it is how you deal with the stress that comes alongside of these pressures that will positively or negatively impact your well-being. For example, if you recently lost your job and have to worry about affording your student loans or new house payment, you will be faced with a critical challenge. Will you sit on your couch, ruminating over the issue at hand? Will you let your financial concerns turn into depression or another stress-induced illness?
No—you should, instead, use your extreme concern as motivation to seek out an alternative income. If you succumb to the stress, you will likely miss out on an opportunity to land another job. Dealing with an illness while job hunting is a recipe for disaster. Instead, take some time to make your application materials stand out from the competition and know that your money concerns will improve once you find another job.
If you are facing undue amounts of stress, you first must focus on yourself before you try to tackle your money problems. One avenue to conquer stress is to practice deep breathing or meditation. Engaging in a mindfulness activity is a proven way to reduce stress, which could be great for your overall well-being—and for getting back on your feet after encountering a financial crisis.
Additionally, you can engage in any number of these tips to boost your own mental wellness, which should be your primary focus in order to avoid stress-related illness:
- Consult a doctor or psychiatrist
- Talk to a friend or confidant
- Listen to music
- Eat a healthy snack
- Partake in yoga or dance classes
With Your Health In Check, Now Focus on Your Finances
Once you have proactively made an effort to reduce stress’s negative effects on your health and well-being, you can turn to your finances and take strides in the right direction. Of course, we all handle our finances in different ways, and your most serious money crisis may not be as severe as your neighbor’s. Still, it’s fairly common for people to simply not deal with financial problems when faced with them, and ignoring the issue will never resolve it.
To avoid the dangerous consequences of financial stress on your health, you must make a plan to actually work through the causes of your money problems. The first place to start is to communicate your concerns with another person. So often, we place all of the pressure on ourselves—and it can be extremely draining to handle these types of issues on your own. (Hence why so many people have financial advisors, and with good reason!)
If you typically look after your finances alone, it may lift a huge weight from your shoulders to simply tell a friend or family member about your concerns. Sharing your fears and hopes for the situation can greatly reduce the pressures you feel in sorting through them. And, since other people will most definitely have dealt with similar situations, you will be able to gain insightful advice that can lead to the development of a practical, proactive plan.
The next step that will instantly reduce some of the pressures you feel is to create some breathing room for yourself. Outline a budget of all of your monthly expenses. Where’s all of you money going each month? Once you are familiar with all of your recurring bills, you can align your income with your other expenses. Then, you can reset your spending habits and cut back n extraneous expenses that don’t fit within your budget.
Before long, you will be inclined to live a bit beneath your means and will quickly gain a sense of greater financial freedom. With room to breathe, you can then set realistic goals. Planning is always the best way to give you control over what happens next—even if it’s not total control. But if you have a set plan, you can prioritize your expenses and balance any competing demands on your money—like student loans or retirement savings.
Finally, give special attention to making things as easy on yourself as possible. You’re already under enough stress as it is—so make your money management and your financial plan simple. Thanks to technology, there are plenty of financial apps and platforms that can help you easily save more money each month—like the app that rounds up each of your purchases and stores the extra “change” in a savings account. If you automate as much of your financial life as possible, you will know that your financial priorities—and main stressors—are accounted for each month.
Financial stress may be one of the most challenging types of stress to manage, and its negative consequences for both the body and mind are of real concern to peoples’ health and well-being. By taking a more practical approach to finding ways to alleviate financial pressures, you can be proactive in reducing the grip of capitalism on your mental, physical and emotional health.