The Connection Between Financial Stress and Poor Health Outcomes

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately thinking about the connection between money and health – specifically how the financial stress you feel translates directly into poor health outcomes.

In short, when you’re stressed about money you are much more likely to get sick, maybe even really sick.

This past week, I gave a talk about the connection between financial stress and health at the Health Benefits Leadership Conference, at the Aria hotel in Las Vegas. In doing the research for this speech, I looked at several studies that have proven this connection – something you probably knew inside your head and heart, but are probably glad there’s some hard data to back it up.

In 2014, researchers published a review of 33 peer-reviewed studies demonstrating serious health effects related to indebtedness. Individuals who couldn’t make their monthly loan payments thought about suicide and suffered from depression more than those without debt.

If you can’t pay your bills, you’re also likely to have poorer subjective health and health-related behavior. Like Cardio Vascular Disease. Turns out, financial stress may increase the risks of incident CVD and all-cause mortality, particularly among men.

The risks are greater in men living in single households and in women who don’t have cash in the bank at the end of the month. (Living with a partner seems to protect men, but not women, from getting sick because of ill-health associated with financial stress due to a lack of extra cash on hand.)

Of course, According to L Casey Chosewood, director of the Office for Total Worker Health, a the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, work influences critical choices around tobacco use, physical activity and other health behaviors. Workplace stress affects these choices. But when you feel like you don’t earn enough, you’re much more likely to smoke more, workout less, take worse care of yourself, use drugs and eat less healthily.

All of this factors into poor health outcomes. And, much of it can be reduced, if not avoided, over time. But it take times to implement new programs that will lower workplace stress, and help employees take back control over their financial lives, lowering financial stress.