The Mental and Physical Effects of Financial Stress

By Chase Rimmer / September 10, 2018

Can Financial Stress Cause Illness?

Financial freedom involves so much more than being able to afford a little luxury in life; for many, it marks the difference between health and disease, the chance to achieve one’s full potential, or remain in a rut both physically and mentally. According to the American Psychological Association, the top three factors that cause stress to Americans are: the future of our nation (63%), money (62%), and work (61%). Interestingly, two of these three are related to money. In this post, we discuss the ways in which money issues and worries can affect our physical and mental health, suggesting ways to nip the problem in the bud.

Stressing the Body

Various studies have been carried out on the relationship between stress and our health. In one study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, it was found that financial woes can increase the levels of C-reactive protein: a blood test marker that indicates inflammation (which can lead to a higher risk of a heart attack). Other studies show an important link between stress and overeating. Obesity is reaching epidemic proportions in the US, and while exercise is vital for building muscle mass and burning calories, without a healthy diet, it is unlikely that those who need to lose weight can reach their goals.

Our Minds Matter

Financial stress also affects our mental health; in fact, researchers at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in New Orleans presented studies showing that no matter what the cause, stress alters the brain’s reward system, thus producing long-term effects on mental health. For instance, those who are stressed can find little pleasure in things they used to love. Stress also releases hormones (such as cortisol and norepinephrine) which can cause everything from anxiety and depression, to aggressiveness.

How Can We Battle Stress?

If finances are the cause of stress, there are many steps we can take to curb it. Putting our finances in order with loans or debt consolidation/refinancing and other restructuring strategies, can work to ease our monthly burden and allow us to meet our obligations (and even enjoy a luxury or two). Sometimes, we can lighten our burden simply by cutting back on expenses, relying less on credit, or tightening our belts for a determined period of time until debt is paid.

When asked how they coped with stress, Americans answered unequivocally. Some 47% listened to music, 46% liked to exercise or walk, 29% prayed, while 12% practiced meditation or yoga. Interestingly, their responses show the growing importance that spirituality is playing in youth’s lives. They may be veering away from organized religion, but they are keener than ever to experience a sense of community and belonging.

Yoga and meditation are two millenary practises which have been found in study after study to significantly lower cortisol, improve mood, and increase energy levels. Thus, across the globe, they form part of treatment plans of those in rehabilitation for substance abuse, as well as those battling eating disorders and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.

If you are undergoing tough times economically, it is vital to be aware of the way your health can be affected. In addition to organizing your finances and building a healthy savings nest, try to find ways to boost your physical and mental health. Go for a walk in a lush forest or park, join an outdoor yoga class, or go for an energetic brisk walk. Every bit counts when it comes to turning the stress monster into nothing more than a bugbear.

Jeremy Perkins

About the author

Chase Rimmer

Chase is an expert in finance and uses his expertise and understanding of links between different financial products and life stages to analyze the latest finance news and products. When he's not writing you can find him in first class using his credit card points. Or staying at home with his cat if he's not saved enough yet!

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