Debt and Stress – The Silent Killers

A number of recent studies show that money worries are a significant cause of worry, anxiety and stress. GP and leading mental health expert, Dr Roger Henderson has recently published a paper identifying the condition Money Sickness Syndrome (MSS) to refer to the symptoms of stress arising from the anxiety generated by feelings of poor financial understanding or control of personal finances. Almost half (43%) of the UK adult population is affected by money worries and have experienced MSS symptoms. 3.8m people admit money worries have caused them to take time off work and more than 10.76m people suffer relationship problems because of money worries, with almost one in five complaining of a sex life slump. UK consumers are the most over-indebted in Europe, and a quarter of those in debt are receiving treatment for stress, depression and anxiety from their GP.

The majority of British couples find money the hardest subject to talk about with their partners and over a quarter of couples regularly argue when they try to discuss their finances; about a third of British couples lie to their partners about how much they spend on their credit cards; a similar number are kept awake at night worrying about their money situation.

The problem is not, as one might suspect, a uniquely British one. According to a study by Ohio State’s Center for Survey Research. “The stress of owing money, and knowledge that we’re paying high interest rates, may lead to increased stress resulting in worsening health.” Researchers found that the association between debt and health remained strong and significant even after factors such as age and income were taken into account. “Two people may have the same income, but if one is deeper in debt, that person will probably be under more stress and have more health-related problems.”

A participant in Dr Henderson’s study described his MSS symptoms: “I worry about money at least once or twice a week. I find myself running out of money towards the end of the month, and I’m always worrying about when the next bill is going to come through. My relationships suffer as I am short tempered and irritable, and my sleep is often interrupted. I admit I drink a little more than usual when I’m worrying about my finances and the stress has even caused me to take time off from work to try to get my head around my money worries”. Does this sound all too familiar to you? Money Sickness Syndrome, as with other illnesses, can lead to sickness absence and poor performance at work. If this starts leading to loss of income then the situation can only get worse.

In the conclusion of his study, Dr Henderson stated: “A quarter of people in debt are receiving treatment for stress, depression and anxiety from their GP. Based on what I see in my surgery every day, I believe a financial education programme can only have beneficial results when allied to sound independent financial advice”. Good advice indeed. If you feel you may be on the slippery slope of debt then don’t delay – take action!

It may be tempting to try and sweep your debt problems under the carpet. You may even have been doing that for some time, but ask yourself: Is it worth the risk to your health? The best advice I can give you is; Do Something – whether that means a Debt Consolidation Loan, a Debt Management Plan, Bankruptcy or simply cutting up your credit cards and working out a personal budget. Whatever you can do – do it – and I bet you feel a whole lot happier and healthier for it!