Across the globe, October is a month filled with observances and events that focus on health and wellness. It is the month we observe Breast Cancer Awareness, World Mammography Day, World Mental Health Day, Autism Awareness Month, World Cerebral Palsy Day, and the list goes on.
It is, therefore, a time when many of us often stop to reflect on the state of our own physical and mental health. However, one area that often gets neglected during this reflection is our financial wellness and how this can heavily impact our physical and mental wellbeing.
Rose Miller, grants manager at the JN Foundation and Head of the JN BeWi$e financial empower programme advised that the age-old adage, “health is wealth,” is more than just a cliché.
She noted that part of a wellness-centered lifestyle should be paying careful attention to your finances and ensuring that you’re setting yourself up for a prosperous life.
Here are some of the most common ways poor money management manifests itself physically.
- Raised Diastolic Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is the precursor to a myriad of health problems, including but not limited to heart attacks and strokes. A 2013 Northwestern University study showed that adults ages 24 to 32 who had high debt had higher diastolic blood pressure. This is an age group that – money issues aside – should be in optimal health. When it comes to heart disease, we can’t help our genetic predisposition, but we certainly can make an effort to pay down debt as quickly as possible, which may be just as effective.
- Greater Muscle Tension
Muscle tension, including back pain, has been reported in persons with high debt stress. In addition, 44% had migraines or other headaches, compared to just 15% without debt stress, according to a 2008 Associated Press-AOL Health poll. If you believe you’re suffering from tension due to money problems, consider coupling your financial plan with exercise like walking, aerobics, or simple stretches.
- Worsened Digestive Symptoms
The digestive system is often referred to as the center of health. When under heavy financial stress, many don’t follow proper eating habits. Healthy food may not even be accessible or affordable for those in financial trouble. In addition, 27% with high debt stress reported having ulcers or other digestive tract problems, compared to just 8% without.
If you have a lot of debt, or if you just lost a job, things can turn very bleak pretty quickly. Feelings of despair are common – one study found 23% of those with debt reported having severe depression compared to just 4% without. Another found a 14% increase in depression symptoms with every 10% increase in personal debt.
Mrs Miller advised that a life well lived consists of finances well managed. “While there are many things you can do to improve your physical and mental health, including exercise, eating right, cultivating meaningful relationships, getting regular checkups and rest, there’s no denying the science behind health and finances,” she said.
“Do everything in your power to keep your credit score high, your debt low, and your savings and investments plenty. You’ll reap the reward both physically and mentally. If need be, prioritise health over work.”
Sources: 2013 Northwestern University and 2008 Associated Press-AOL Health poll