How money worries lead to health worries
Does your monthly bank statement look the way you feel? Yeah, mine too – and according to oodles of recent studies, the situation's more literal than we realized.
Your financial situation plays an obvious role in how you feel day to day, but it's also a defining factor in the quality of your future health. In other words, if you don't take your head out of the sand, stat, you could be facing some serious health issues.
Below is a highlight reel of what your debts are doing — or will end up doing — to your health.
Generalized anxiety disorder
If you constantly panic about how you’re going to get back on track financially, the only thing your anxiety will do is distract you and make your financial situation worse. As your panic climbs, your body eventually adjusts to the chronic stress, until you’re face-to-face with an anxiety disorder — and they’re annoying, trust me. Anxiety disorders are like the Bob Wiley of mental illness: They just don’t know when to take a hike.
High blood pressure/heart attack
In a recent study by Northwestern University, high debt equals high blood pressure. Researchers used data on 8,400 young adults (ages 24 to 32) to examine the connection between debt and health. Those with higher debt had a 1.3 percent increase in diastolic blood pressure. (To put it into perspective, a two-point increase is associated with a 17 percent higher risk of hypertension and a 15 percent higher risk of stroke.)
A study published in Diabetes Care linked financial and work-related stress to metabolic syndrome, which increases your risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke.
If your financial stress causes you to toss and turn, the sleep deprivation will eventually turn you into at least three of the seven dwarfs (Sleepy, Dopey and Grumpy, in case you were wondering), not to mention the other health problems insomnia can lead to: obesity, diabetes and heart disease, among others
When my financial stress was at its worst, I became a walking Gravol commercial: heartburn, nausea, IBS, the works — and there’s not much you can do about your debt when you’re in the fetal position (trust me, I tried).
Lower IQ/reckless choices
According to a study published in Science, persistent poverty requires so much mental energy there’s less brainpower to devote to other areas of life — ironically, the very areas that could help you face your financial stress effectively. There’s also a better chance you'll make reckless decisions that'll make your financial stress even worse (e.g., taking a vacation when you can’t afford it or escaping your troubles through online shopping). Participants in the study exhibited a drop in cognitive function that was equivalent to the loss of an entire night’s sleep, which impaired their decision-making abilities.
In a poll conducted by Yahoo! Health and Reader’s Digest, approximately one in four Americans use their jobs and financial stress as excuses for not working out (writer bashfully raises hand). In fact, 18 percent said working was more important than working out. (If you’ve thought this too, let’s take a moment and slap ourselves, shall we?)
A poll conducted by the Associated Press and AOL revealed that 55 percent of people with high levels of stress from debt have suffered from migraines and other types of headaches.
An increase in unhealthy habits
If you’re financially strapped, you’re more likely to participate in unhealthy habits to cope —,you know, like smoking, drinking, shopping, traveling (basically, my entire 20s). Which lead to (you guessed it) more financial stress.
Throwing in the towel on your financial situation and believing you’ll never be debt-free is a hopelessness that can’t be adequately described and robs you of the life you deserve.
You might think you’re used to your financial stress (these days who isn’t stressed about money?) but your body’s telling you otherwise. Are you ready to listen?
More reasons to take charge of stress
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