Everyone in debt knows that debt can make you feel sick. You plan around it; you think about it; you worry about it. Many of us can trace our level of stress right back to our level of debt. A study at Ohio State University found that people who reported higher levels of stress in regard to their debt showed higher levels of physical impairment and reported worse health than their counterparts with lower levels of debt. The study also found that the level of credit card debt compared to income also played a role, with those with higher percentages of debt to income reporting a higher level of physical impairment.
Debt stress impacts physical and mental health as well as our relationships. The divorce rate is often said to be over 50 percent and the number one reason for divorce is reportedly financial trouble. Couples argue more about money than any other relationship issue.
Stress, anxiety and depression are common for those with uncomfortable amounts of debt. Feelings of guilt, shame and failure all impact self-esteem and lead people to feel as if they are out of control or powerlessness. Add to this the fears of what will happen if the bills are not paid, the aggressiveness of many creditors and debt collectors, and the constant pressure to continue spending, and it is no wonder that some Americans actually end up taking their own lives as a means to ending the spiraling feelings.
Debt stress has also been linked to substance abuse and the accompanying health problems (including an increased risk of violence) associated with this illegal activity. On the legal side, many people react to stress by abusing alcohol or legal prescriptions.
Spending has become such a problem for some people that the pharmaceutical industry has taken notice. Shopping has long been recognized as an addiction for those whose spending interferes significantly with their lives. In fact, it is estimated that 8 percent of American adults (90 percent of these being women) suffer from this addiction. Research has shown that this compulsive spending is linked to low serotonin levels in the brain. The drug Celexa increases serotonin and is now being used to treat compulsive shopping. In fact a recent study showed 80 percent of the shopping addicts treated with Celexa were able to curb their impulses to spend.
Another serious health concern related to financial problems is the fact that people will often forego treatment for physical (or mental) illness in attempts to control debt. This too often leads to more serious ailments and even death. In addition, those in financial turmoil are more likely to go against doctor’s orders and return to work in order to pay the bills – medical bills included – thus increasing their chances of reinjury.
We all know about the connection between stress and illness. Get stressed and you get sick. Anyone who has ever gotten sick right after a big test or after the deadline for a huge project knows how stress wears us down. It’s said that when the sex is good it only accounts for about 10 percent of the health of the marriage. When it’s bad it accounts for about 90 percent. The same can be said for money and the stress it creates at work and at home. When the money is good, it accounts for only about 10 percent of a person’s problems. But when it’s bad it accounts for 90 percent.
Unfortunately, many people don’t know where to turn when they have credit problems. For more information on how to get credit help, please read my book ABCs of Getting Out of Debt or click here for a link to the book and a list of agencies that can assist you with debt counseling and negotiation.