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The Link Between Financial Stress and Health12.31.13

More and more, doctors and researchers are noticing the link between a person’s stress level and their physical (as well as mental) health. Sometimes the link is direct: psychological issues such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder can come about because of a stressful situation, and cardiovascular issues (high blood pressure and heart issues) are direct physical reactions to stress. Other times the link is indirect: chronic stress is known to lead to poor health choices like overeating, smoking and drinking.

At the same time, the link between finances and stress is also well-known. So it makes sense that people are starting to make the connection between financial stress and health, and looking for ways to reduce the impact money issues have on your well-being.

Debt Stress and Health

An Associated Press/AOL poll in 2008, when the recent recession was deepening, found a strong correlation – 27 percent of survey respondents with high debt stress reported ulcers and digestive-tract problems, compared to 8 percent of those with low debt stress. And 29 percent in the high-debt stress category suffered from severe anxiety, compared with 4 percent of those with low debt stress.

Ohio State University developed a “Debt Stress Index” that tracked debt stress and health impacts over several years and found a similar trend, with more people reporting that debt stress had “very much affected” their health during the recession.

On the flip side, an Indiana University School of Public health study found that improving financial conditions in recent years correlated with better health behaviors in terms of eating, smoking and exercise – but that those improvements were NOT seen in people who were still dealing with financial struggles.

Tips for Reducing Financial Stress

So what can you do to reduce your financial stress and (possibly) the health issues it brings? Here’s our thoughts on the matter:

Know where your money goes:

Take the time to carefully see where your money goes. Look at the past few months’ expenditures and see if there are any surprising sinkholes, like eating out, that might take up more of your money than you think.

Prioritize expenses:

When all you see is how much money gets spent, it can seem overwhelming. But once you see it in smaller chunks, you can see that some are more important to you than others. Rank your expenses in importance.

Tackle debt:

Debt is especially linked to stress, so make sure debt reduction is high on your priority list.

Make a budget:

Once you know where money goes and what’s most important, you can make a realistic budget. Cutting expenses is hard, but it’s easier when you have a plan.

Be open about it:

Don’t hide financial issues from family – it makes it harder to adjust spending when only some people know about the issue. And being able to talk to others about options will make you feel less of a burden on your own shoulders.

Don’t let stress linger:

If you suffer from financial stress, take action sooner rather than later.

Tax time is a good time to tackle financial stress. It’s something you can get done right away, and it gives you a chance to spend time looking at your finances and expenses. Plus, if you get a tax return as many filers do, it can give you a great chance to make a dent in your debt or sock some money away for emergencies, helping you reduce stress in the year to come.

So don’t wait – set up an appointment with your local Jackson Hewitt tax pro today and take action that will reduce your financial stress.