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Financially stressed people often make the decision to cut back on, or even cancel, healthcare services. Picture: SUPPLIED/ALEXANDER FORBES
Financially stressed people often make the decision to cut back on, or even cancel, healthcare services. Picture: SUPPLIED/ALEXANDER FORBES

We tend to think of financial health and physical health as two separate things. When we need financial assistance, we call our financial adviser or accountant. When we have a medical issue, we go to the doctor. But a rising body of evidence suggests the two forms of health are inextricably linked.

A closer examination of the relationship between your finances and your physical health sheds light on how money matters can have a profound impact on your wellbeing.

Effects on physical health

A 2018 study by US researchers at the cardiology and geriatric departments of the University of California, Los Angeles, the economics department at Dukes University, and the epidemiology division at Drexel University, found blood pressure and blood glucose levels were higher in adults experiencing financial stress. This backs up a 2013 study by Northwestern University, which found that adults with higher levels of debt also had higher diastolic blood pressure — putting them at significantly more risk for heart attacks and strokes.

In addition to increased risk from high blood pressure, stress can also cause other harmful behaviours, such as overeating or increased reliance on cigarettes, alcohol and even recreational drugs. High cortisol levels from stress increase appetite — especially for sugary or fatty foods. Smoking, drinking, and the highs or mellowing effects of narcotics also appear more attractive during stressful times.

Effects on emotional and social health

Stressed people are not pleasant people to be around. Angry outbursts, excessive crying, emotional withdrawal, lack of interest, and chronic low energy levels are common symptoms of a stressed psyche. This is all bad news for the individual, as it makes their life miserable while making them less likely to seek help. It also makes life miserable for the family, friends and coworkers who must coexist with them.

The effects of financial stress on children are particularly long-lasting. Research shows that children who experience socioeconomic adversity at an early age are at increased risk for mental health issues in their teens and beyond.

Effects on health care

Financially stressed individuals often make the decision to cut back on or even cancel, healthcare services. Studies have shown that one in five people have skipped going to the doctor due to financial concerns. Getting good treatment also becomes more difficult if you can’t afford medical aid or doctors’ bills.

These points highlight the importance of financial management in keeping you and your family, healthy and happy. A good employee benefits programme, such as those offered by Alexander Forbes, can give you the advice and services you need to minimise financial stress (and life stress). With expert advice and support, you can live comfortably within your means. 

This article was paid for by Alexander Forbes.

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