Is Your Debt Affecting Your Health?

Money can be used to buy all the things we really need at a basic level – shelter, food, warmth and pay for essential healthcare, but what happens when we don’t have enough to cover those needs? How does money affect our wellbeing? How does debt affect it? By understanding the relationship between our health and our wealth it’s possible that we can make our lives easier, which has the potential to make us healthier.

Whichever way you look at it, having money gives you choices. A bigger bankroll may allow you to live nearer work, work fewer hours, spend more time with friends and increase leisure times. The question is… what did you do with your last pay raise? Did you use it to move nearer work, or are you still left wondering where it all went to? If you can’t remember where it went to, let’s take a look at the relationship at health vs. wealth and see what your choices are.
You’ve heard your grandma say that money can’t buy you happiness, but it’s been proven a lack of money, or bad credit, can have a negative effect on your health. The current tough economic times and rising costs of living seem to be leading to increasing debt stress, 14 percent higher this year than 2008, the last official recession, according to an index tied to the AP-AOL survey.
stress and debt infographicPhoto Credit: AP AOL Survey

Among the people reporting high debt stress in the new poll:
  • 27 percent had ulcers or digestive tract problems, compared with 8 percent of those with low levels of debt stress.
  • 44 percent had migraines or other headaches, compared with 15 percent.
  • 29 percent suffered severe anxiety, compared with 4 percent.
  • 23 percent had severe depression, compared with 4 percent.
  • 6 percent reported heart attacks, double the rate for those with low debt stress.
  • More than half, 51 percent, had muscle tension, including pain in the lower back. That compared with 31 percent of those with low levels of debt stress.

People who reported bad credit high stress also were much more likely to have trouble concentrating and sleeping and were more prone to getting upset for no good reason.
If you’ve ever lain in bed and spent the night worrying about putting gas in the tank, or the next mortgage payment, then you know that a lack of money and bad credit affects you negatively. But exactly how much money will make you happy?

Studies have also shown:
  • Per capita income in the U.S. rose 150% from 1946 to 1990 (which is a huge difference in purchasing power), but the percent of people considering themselves very happy fell.
  • In addition, depression rates in the U.S. rose 10 times in that 50-year period.
  • In Japan between 1958 and 1991, the per capita income rose six-fold, but subjective wellbeing stayed the same.
  • People who won large amounts of money in lotteries in the U.S. or football pools in England were not significantly happier a year later and were more dissatisfied with daily events.
  • Welfare recipients who were given more money in a controlled study experienced more stress than those who received the regular amount.

(References: Below)
Always thought money would make you happier? Surprised at the result? You should be – but it isn’t all it seems.
Christie Scollon did research at SMU’s School of Social Sciences, into “At what point does more money no longer increase your happiness”. This is what the study found out:
Photo Credit: SMU
“Perhaps $75,000 is a threshold beyond which further increases in income no longer improve individuals’ ability to do what matters most to their emotional well-being,” the study reported. This means that people in the US who make $75,000 a year (around 8,000 SGD per month) are just as happy as those who make $150,000. Any higher income is not going to increase emotional well-being, but a lower income is associated with less emotional well-being, Scollon explained.
Whether you realise it or not, money does have an effect on your health and the only way to be able to avoid the serious consequences of a lack of money is to learn to control how much you have – which can be easily summed up in one line: the only way to really control your money is to spend less than you earn.

This tactic of always having a little to put away avoids the physical stress of worrying about where your next dollar is coming from, but don’t forget, you also avoid the stress of bad credit – and bad credit can hang around on your credit report for up to seven years. If you have money worries that are causing you to skip meals, create pain or affect your mood swings, then maybe it’s time to get help. A reputable credit company, such as The Credit Agents, will be able to ease some of that stress by working with you to get your finances under control so you could get on with a healthy life.

Deaton, A. (2008). Income, health, and well-being around the world: Evidence from the Gallup world poll. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 22(2), 53.
Diener, E., & Seligman, M. (2004). Beyond money: Toward an economy of well-being. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 5(1), 2.
Diener, E., Diener, R. (2002). Will money increase subjective well-being? Social Indicators Research, 57/2.

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