The relationship between poor financial health and physical well-being

Most people don’t know how closely connected financial security and personal health truly are. But when finances get out of hand, the stress and anxiety that occurs are enough to create serious physical and mental health problems.

According to a survey conducted by a South African student, money stress weighs heavily on people’s abilities and health. Factual research Mmaselloe Sekhukhune conducted in 2008 for his master’s thesis indicated that many poor students from low-income households do not have enough funds to afford food, and this has a negative impact on their academic performance.

Five of the 10 students who participated in his study had to terminate their studies because the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) did not pay all their outstanding fees. They could not find ways to pay outstanding fees and were therefore not in a position to receive their results. They had to have these results to register for the next academic year.

The results of the survey shows that money and finances are the top stress inducing factor in a person’s life, regardless of the economic climate.

Whatever the case may be, financial stress is taking a toll on lots of people of every socioeconomic status, race, occupation, and background. And, as with most stress, it can have an impact on physical and emotional health.

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Some people are putting their health-care needs on hold because of financial concerns. Nearly 1 in 5 Africans 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.”

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 often have a weak memory.
  • 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 people 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 worrying 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 emotional support. People 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 people 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.

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