Are Your Finances Impacting Your Health?
Health care costs have been rising for years. The issue is one that concerns most people and is one of the most influential when it comes to voters making political decisions. We’re concerned about how much it costs to be healthy, but could being unhealthy financially be making us sick?
The evidence suggests that it’s true. An American Psychological Association study showed that financial stress reduces life expectancy.1 Financial stress can cause a range of symptoms, from migraine headaches to clogged arteries.
Real Problems Cause Real Problems
So then, being worried about our financial state can cause us physical harm. It’s also true that actually experiencing financial distress can cause poor health. A study from the Economics Policy Institute showed that the richer we are, the healthier we are.2 Men with a higher income simply live longer.
People with a lower income are more likely to suffer various maladies, similar to those caused by financial stress. This is often because of a lack of access to adequate health care, as one survey of health care statistics indicates.3 Also, people with less disposable income may be less likely to make regular visits to a doctor or dentist, eat a healthy diet or have the time to get regular exercise. All of these things can lead to poor overall health.
Poor Coping Mechanisms Makes Things Worse
Poor or not, worrying about finances can lead us to attempt to cope with the stress. We often go for the easiest method of relief, such as:
- Sitting in front of a TV or computer screen for hours, living a sedentary lifestyle
- Binge eating
- Drinking alcohol in excess
- Maladaptive behavior in our interpersonal relationships
- Lacking proper sleep
As you might guess, these behaviors can have negative consequences for our physical and mental health. We can put on excess weight, experience poor circulation, lack important nutrients and exacerbate stresses by having conflicts with family members.
The Psychology of Scarcity
An interesting study revealed the raw mental impact of financial stress on those with lower incomes.4 The participants were shown two car repair bills, one large and one small. They were asked to work out several questions. The idea wasn’t to test math skills, but other cognitive abilities. The lower-income subjects performed poorly when presented with the large car bill. The effect, called the “psychology of scarcity,” showed that people are less capable when lacking something important in their lives.
Working Your Way Out
So then, financial stress can affect our health. The easy answer it seems would be to remove the financial stress. Of course, it isn’t always that easy. Sometimes we have to ride out the rough times while finding healthy strategies for dealing with the physiological and psychological aspects.
One way, perhaps a little painful for those going through a rough patch, would be to take stock of where you are and look to make a plan to get out of it.
- Make a budget
- Talk with family members who may have experienced similar situations
- Look for ways to increase income without increasing stress, like turning a hobby into a side hustle.
- Get help from family or friends if possible
- Talk to a financial advisor
You can also engage in healthier activities to act as a buffer between your financial stress and your health.
- Start an exercise plan
- Get a healthy diet
- Spend more time with family or friends instead of sitting alone weighed down with worry
- Visit a doctor if you are feeling poorly, don’t wait for something serious to go wrong
It’s clear that financial stress can negatively affect your health. However, it doesn’t have to. While you work your way out of your financial trouble, take time to apply some self-care for your health care.