How Financial Stress is Hurting You

Stress is a common experience in everyday life. While it usually occurs in the context of work or school, financial pressures can also exert significant stress on people.

The America Psychological Association describes stress as:

“[An] automatic response developed in our ancient ancestors as a way to protect them from predators and other threats. Faced with danger, the body kicks into gear, flooding the body with hormones that elevate your heart rate, increase your blood pressure, boost your energy and prepare you to deal with the problem.”

Stressful situations can result in health consequences because the body is continually reverting back to its natural alarm system to compensate for a busy schedule or juggled tasks. The APA continues:

Chronic stress may also cause disease, either because of changes in your body or the overeating, smoking and other bad habits people use to cope with stress. Job strain — high demands coupled with low decision-making latitude — is associated with increased risk of coronary disease, for example. Other forms of chronic stress, such as depression and low levels of social support, have also been implicated in increased cardiovascular risk. And once you’re sick, stress can also make it harder to recover.”

One survey revealed that money continues to be a top cause of stress for Americans, revealing that 72 percent of the adults surveyed claimed they had felt stressed about money in the last month. The same survey also showed that almost 1 in 5 Americans either skipped a doctor visit or considered doing so because of financial concerns.

A recently released study looked specifically at the Great Recession’s health impacts, especially on blood pressure and blood glucose levels:

“Important differences in the effects of the GR…are seen across subgroups, with larger effects among younger adults (who are likely still in the labor force) and older homeowners (whose declining home wealth likely reduced financial security, with less scope for recouping losses during their lifetime); least affected were older adults without a college degree (whose greater reliance on Medicare and Social Security likely provided more protection from the recession).”

On average, the participants of this study experienced higher blood pressure and blood glucose levels as a result of the Great Recession as these health indication levels rose in participants when compared to their pre-recession levels.

Another study originally published in the journal of Social Science & Medicine discovered further evidence of the link between debt and stress: “Our findings show that reporting high financial debt relative to available assets is associated with higher perceived stress and depression, worse self-reported general health, and higher diastolic blood pressure. … The results suggest that debt is an important socioeconomic determinant of health”

There are ways to handle and manage stress in order to limit the negative effects it can have on a person’s health. The American Psychological Association found that there are a few key things that consumers can do to help reduce and manage the stress they experience. It is recommended that they build strong, healthy relationships. This will provide a support system for the person experiencing stress and friends or family can offer a new perspective on the stressful situation. Walking away from tense and angry environments can help prevent stress. Engaging in physical activities or exercise also reduces stress. It is important to get adequate rest. Try to get seven to eight hours of sleep and limit overall caffeine intake. Lastly, if a person is still feeling overwhelmed, they can consult a psychologist or licensed mental health professional in order to learn how to manage stress in an effective way.

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