Of all the invisible illnesses affecting people, one of the least understood, is stress. Often depicted in the media as a source of headaches and anguish, it actually affects our physical and mental health in many more ways than one might imagine. According to CNBC, 65% of Americans lose sleep over money. Research indicates that rather than simply waiting for more peaceful times or attempting to ignore stress and ‘get on with it’, stress should be approached proactively, through a combination of lifestyle changes, exercise, mindfulness-based activities, a sound diet, and good sleep hygiene. In this post we highlight just a few important findings on the link between financial stress and health.
What Debts are Stressing America Out
Total household debt (which includes amounts owed on mortgages, student loans, and vehicle loans plus credit card and additional debt) amounted to $13 trillion in 2017, according to Time. Those aged 45 to 54 owe the most (an average of $134,600), followed by those in the 35-44 age group (who owe $133,100). Sometimes, those who own a house may refinance their home for a greater amount than their existing mortgage to pay for a child’s college or similar expense. Debts drop in the age 64-74 group, decreasing even more sharply when Americans hit 75; even so, this group still owes a five-figure sum.
How does Financial Stress Affect One’s Mental Health?
Studies have shown that a significant percentage of adults have symptoms of PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder) because of financial stress. Some admit to engaging in harmful behaviors (such as turning to alcohol) to deal with stress. Research indicates that those who are stressed out by money issues have a higher risk of anxiety and depression. Even in younger groups (for instance, university students), financial worries have been found to increase depression and alcohol dependency. The more stressed out an individual is, the worse are their symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression.
Financial Stress and Physical Health
Money worries affect our physical health in countless ways. One study found that financial stress increased the odds of having migraine headaches. Another showed that it contributes to inflammation by increasing levels of C-reactive protein, which is strongly linked to heart disease. In 2017, the European Society of Cardiology reported that significant financial stress is linked to a 13-fold higher chance of having a heart attack – alarming findings indeed considering that heart disease is already the leading cause of death for both women and men in America.
All types of stress hamper our health in profound ways, both in the short and long term. Stress has been associated with poorer outcomes for various diseases. It is also linked to obesity, immunity issues and changes to the brain. If you feel stressed, try to make the necessary changes to lead a more peaceful life. If a change of job or environment is not immediately possible, fight stress proactively through the multi-faceted approach mentioned in the introduction. Mindfulness therapies such as yoga and meditation are particularly useful, owing to their powerful ability to lower levels of stress hormone, cortisol.