It’s been said you can never be too rich or too thin. We know the dangers of bulimia, anorexia and other eating disorders, but rarely do people openly discuss the mental health impact of financial stress, and yet the stress of the economic downturn is everywhere. According to a 2011 study conducted by the Pew Research Center, the majority of Americans rate their current financial situation as poor or fair, and nearly half of Americans say they have encountered financial problems in the past year. In some parts of the country, including metro Detroit, the numbers are even higher.
Many people feel a sense of hopelessness at job loss, credit card debt, and inability to pay their rent or mortgages. The numbers of people who do report being stressed out by their financial situation are on the rise due to the state of the economy and uncertain job market; fully 78% of Americans report worrying about money. Being “stressed out” about money can affect every aspect of a person’s life, creating tension at home, in the workplace and in the community at large. Ongoing financial stress can lead to a variety of physical and mental health issues including anxiety and sleep disorders, substance abuse, alcoholism and depression.
Even for those still employed, concerns about layoffs, wage and benefit cuts and municipal or company bankruptcies also created financial stress. It is a well documented fact that money problems are one of the primary causes of divorce; it normally takes two incomes to keep a family afloat financially these days. Marital discord is a common side effect of financial difficulties, especially if one or both partners experience a change in earnings or if the primary wage earner losses their source of income. And while bankruptcy and foreclosure are becoming more common in southeast Michigan, the social stigmas of such visible signs of financial difficulty still carry significant negative impact.
Unemployment, under employment and economic uncertainty can impact the relationship between parents and children too. Misplaced anger and frustration over a change in economic status and security can lead to increased and arbitrary punishment. As a result, children of families experiencing financial difficulty exhibit more distress and depressive symptoms. Furthermore, depression in children and adolescents has been linked to problems in school, substance abuse, high-risk sexual behavior, physical health problems, impaired social relationships and increased risk of suicide, according to a study conducted by the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues’ Policy Statement “The Psychological Consequences of Unemployment.
Know the signs of financial stress:
- Paying important bills, like mortgage or car payments late
- Making minimum payments month after month
- Using money from one lender to pay another
- Using cash advances to pay daily living expenses
- Withdrawal from social interactions, such as avoiding friends and colleagues
- Insomnia or excessive sleeping
- Misplaced anger and frustration
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
The bottom line is that the long term effects of financial stress can be damaging to both physical and mental health. If you or a loved one is experiencing any of financial stress symptoms described above please contact Great Lakes Psychology Group today or visit our website for more information on marriage consoling, child behavioral issues, anxiety and depression, and addictions and substance abuse.