Information abounds about the need for physical health. Our society is largely driven by physical health and fitness, and yet, we still see heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes on the list of top causes of death.4 Common advice stays constant: eat right, exercise, avoid smoking and drinking. But is it possible that physical health reaches beyond just these few lifestyle choices? Research suggests that finances also play a role in a person’s physical and mental fitness.
Stress and anxiety can be more detrimental to physical health than any of these aforementioned factors, and finances are a major cause of stress. Money is tied to our basic needs and drive for survival, “when that drive can’t be attained—you can’t pay your rent, you can’t pay for your car, you can’t feed your kids—it compounds the stress,” says financial coach Elisabeth Donati.1 According to Forbes, financial-induced stress affects 26% of Americans most or all of the time.
Those with high financial stress are “twice as likely to report poor health overall and are more than four times as likely to complain of headaches, depression, or other ailments.”2 A survey from LendingClub found that those struggling financially more frequently experience illness, depression, and social isolation.3 Both financial and physical health can also attribute to mental health. People with debt are “three times more likely to have a mental health issue, especially depression, anxiety, and psychotic disorders. Financial stress is the second most common cause of suicide, after depression.”2
These statistics speak clearly of an issue facing our society, but why exactly have we come to this point? How? Societal norms once demanded that we keep certain things private—our finances, health, relationships, or basically any personal struggles. While we, as a society, have largely moved away from this model, LendingClub president Steve Allocca believes that “discussing money appears to be the last taboo.” Allocca says, “This silence compounds the issues and poor financial health negatively impacts other key areas in people's lives, causing many to feel shame or isolation […] We need to remove the stigma and start engaging in conversations more openly on financial health."