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Money stress may be to blame for your physical pain

Got credit card debt? Late on rent? Do you have any of those “special” bills that show up in colored envelopes (ahem, late)? Well financial stress could be causing more pain than just in your wallet, according to a new study.

Dealing with finances is such a fun, relaxing activity… said no one, ever. The truth is that talking about money is the number one conversation Americans hate having, according to a 2014 survey. Yes, you read that right: 44 percent of us confessed that we hate financial discussions the most while just 38 percent said they avoided talking about death.

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While your bills may be causing you mental anguish, it turns out they may be causing you physical pain too, according to a new study published in Psychological Science. The researchers scoured the data from six studies and found that financial worries lead to more reports of physical pain, reduced pain tolerance, and was linked with higher over-the-counter painkiller consumption.

Why? It all comes down to feeling like you have no control over your life. Because we need money to pay for all our basic needs—shelter, food, security. If we don’t have enough, then it’s easy to feel like nothing is going well. And when you’re seriously stressed, you’re more likely to get sick. Part of it may stem from stress hormones lowering the immune system. However, another big factor is that if you’re strapped for cash, then one of the first places people often scrimp is in self care. Things like buying fresh produce, healthy food, and gym memberships (understandably) get axed to pay the bills.

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The longer you’re financially insecure, the worse it becomes for your health, which creates a vicious cycle, the researchers said. Financial stress can creep into every aspect of your health. A few sleepless nights turn into insomnia. A few fast food meals turn into a steady diet of junk. A few bummer days turn into full-blown depression.

But being stressed out about money is just part of life. So, what can we do to protect our health while still figuring out our finances? The researchers said the key is to find ways to promote a sense of control over your life. Whether that’s coming up with a written schedule for paying off your credit cards, writing down a monthly budget, or making a game plan for getting a new job, any positive step you can take will help take away the pain—emotionally and physically.

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In the meantime, try not to put your health on the back burner.

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