Media experts constantly discuss how the trend of increased levels of personal debt are negatively affecting financial well being of the country. But few talk about how bad debt hurts someone on a personal level: it hits not only your finances but also your home and your health.
Unfortunately, we often gloss over the mental toll of having a growing debt, especially when it is offset by the gratification of using your credit card to purchase something nice. But Credit cards by design lure people into spending more than they can pay back. Once you’re trapped into an unsustained escalating debt, you lose hope of ever catching up and thus resign yourself to just paying the minimum amount every month. However, the true amount of money you owe always lingers at the back of your mind. It’s not a surprise that those with unsecured debts are three times as likely to develop mental health problems, according to the Clinical Psychology Review journal.
The true cost of is not just the interest, it is also your mental and physical health.
Medical Reality Check
Stress and worry, which can be caused by debt, cause fatigue, the inability to sleep, anxiety, headaches, high blood pressure, obesity and even cancer, as well as increased ulcer pain, neck pain, back pain and heart attacks.
But why is financial worry—or any chronic stress—so bad for you? When you’re stressed, you react with a “fight-or-flight” response. Adrenaline and the stress hormone, cortisol, is released into your body. Those chemicals give you that burst of energy you need in emergencies, but they’re not meant to stay in your body long-term. When they do, they wind up compromising everything from your blood pressure to your immune system.
Some 10 to 16 million Americans are so traumatized by their financial situations that they suffer from three or more stress-related illnesses, according to an Associated Press-AOL Health survey.
Among those polled who reported high debt stress:
- More than one in four (27%) have ulcers or digestive tract problems (only 8% of those with low levels of debt stress had the same complaints)
- Almost half (44%) suffer from migraines or other headaches (compared to just 15% of those with those with low levels of debt stress)
- Nearly one third (29%) experience severe anxiety (compared with a mere 4% of those with low levels of debt stress)
- Twice as many people (6%) report heart attacks than with low debt stress
- More than half of those surveyed (51%) had muscle tension, including lower back pain (compared to 31% of those with low levels of debt stress)
- 23% have experienced severe depression (compared with 4% of those with low levels of debt stress)
Don’t let your debt continue to negatively impact your health and your quality of life, get the help you need.