Guest Post

The Relationship between Health and Finance

The Relationship between Health and Finance

It might seem like health and finance are two completely different worlds, but in reality, the crossover is much deeper than you think. According to the financial consultant, Hannah Mcqueen, “Unaddressed money issues can cause stress and anxiety … on the other hand, well-considered and refined attitudes towards money can create happiness and self-worth.” 

While being financially healthy may not always equate to having good physical health, the opposite is certainly true. Suffering from financial stress or being in debt can really take a toll on our physical and mental health. Far from being just an individual issue, financial stress can also start to impact those around us, affecting our relationships and creating disharmony in many aspects of our lives. 

Consider this article as more of a warning than a threat: understanding how finances can negatively affect our physical and mental health is key to having a better relationship with money. If we put finances on the same pedestal as good health, we’ll be much better for it.

Financial stress affects physical health

One of the most obvious demonstrations of the link between finance and health is the way debt can impact your wellbeing. In what’s deemed as a feedback loop, being in debt – or suffering from financial stress – can start a vicious cycle that affects our physical health and wellness. The first port of call is the way that financial pressure translates into physical stress. When we’re struggling with money, we become physically stressed, and this stress affects all parts of our body: the heart, respiration, brain, and muscles. 

It’s said that 26% of Americans suffer from chronic financial stress. If this stress is not dealt with, it will lead to more serious physical health issues. Our bodies will stay in fight-or-flight mode, releasing adrenaline and the stress hormone cortisol. We are unable to relax, rejuvenate, and rest properly. Soon, this starts to impact immune strength, digestion, and sleep, allowing for all sorts of physical ailments to creep up. One study found that people suffering from high financial stress are twice as likely to suffer ill health, and four times more likely to experience headaches or depression. 

This chart illuminates the link between financial stress and poor physical health:

Chart by Brett Whysel, pulled from Forbes, and using data from NBC News

After causing physical ailments, financial stress becomes an obstacle in treatment. 25% of Americans have trouble paying for their medical bills, and often delay treatment for their issues due to being unable to afford it. This becomes an unfortunate double-edged sword, where the ailment gets worse due to lack of treatment, and financial stress increased at the thought of paying high medical bills.

Financial stress affects mental health

So, we’ve seen the clear link between financial stress and poor physical health. The other aspect that can start to be affected when financial stress gets out of hand is mental health. There are many reasons why struggling financially can impact mental health, from a sense of loss of control, shame, guilt, humiliation, feeling ‘stuck’, or letting those around you down. 

Especially common amongst those who are expected to be the breadwinners and earners in a household, financial stress can lead to a person feeling helpless and alone. In fact, the relationship between mental health and financial stress is so severe that it is the second most common cause of suicide, after depression. This is also because of the feedback loop which exists, where monetary difficulties make it hard for the person to seek treatment for their mental health issues. 

Financial stress affects relationships

Far from just having an impact on the individual, financial stress can also into relationships and affect marriages and families. In fact, you don’t even have to be suffering from stress for finances to affect relationships. Things as simple as earning different incomes to your partner can create friction, and money is actually considered to be the primary reason that couples argue. Tensions are mounted over how households should spend, save, and pay bills, and couples blame one another for financial stress and difficulties. 

Then there is the concept of financial infidelity: where one person hides a debt from their partner, usually so that they don’t upset them. The idea is that they pay back the debt before the partner finds out, however, it often has the opposite result, with the debt increasing and trust being broken. A strong relationship is one in which finances are spoken about openly and honestly, and agreements are made as to how finances will be managed. In times of financial stress, a strong couple is one that gets through it together and avoids blaming their partner.

Look after your finances like you do your body

It’s clear that financial stress can quickly take a toll on all aspects of our personal life. From physical and mental health to relationships with loved ones, struggling financially can induce anxiety, stress, depression, and the physical ailments that come as a result of these issues. It’s important that we don’t treat finances as a separate entity. That’s because our financial health is inextricably tied to our physical wellness, which is why we should look after our finances in the same way we look after our bodies. 

Having our finances in order can allow us to focus more on our health, while also enjoying our everyday lives more. In one study, 81% of respondents found it easier to achieve other goals when finances were in order. In the same study, 70% of those surveyed said that having good financial health impacted positively on their physical health. So, start looking at your finances in the way you watch your weight and fitness: stay financially healthy and you’ll be much more likely to enjoy wellness across all aspects of life.

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