Five Ways Your Debt May Be Making You Sick
We know there is a health care crisis in America. Over the past couple of years we have become painfully aware of the credit crisis as well. But while you may be aware that medical bills are a leading contributor to bankruptcy, you may not realize how quickly your debt can rob you of good health.
Here are some of the ways personal financial problems can hurt your health:
Many of us may gripe about our spouses, kids, bosses, or even politics. But mum’s the word when it comes to talking about our money troubles. Instead, we silently put up with high levels of stress as we try to cope. Mental and physical stress can manifest itself in many ways, all of which are documented as being associated with financial stress:
And if health problems result in job loss, it may be downhill from there. Unemployed women report the worst physical health. Twenty-eight percent have high blood pressure, compared to nineteen percent of employed women, and six percent said they have had a heart attack, chest pain, or stroke, while only two percent of women with jobs have cardiovascular disease, according to one study.
“Are you sleeping?” I asked a father of three who called me recently during a financial crisis. “About three hours a night,” he replied.
He’s certainly not alone. As many as half of all credit-card carrying consumers surveyed report losing sleep over money worries.
Tossing and turning all night can result in something known in medical circles as “sleep debt.” And it creates its own health nightmares. Sleep-deprived people may find themselves unable to focus at work or with a short fuse at home. The National Sleep Foundation reports growing evidence of a link between a lack of good sleep and serious illnesses such as “obesity, diabetes, hypertension and depression.” Lack of sleep can easily affect mood, ability to stay alert on the job, and it also results in driving accidents.
Getting out of debt is a marathon for most people, not a sprint. And it is pretty hard to stay in the race when you aren’t getting enough sleep.
Diet and Debt
When the finances are tight and/or stress is high, diet often goes out the window. Sound familiar? You turn to comfort foods (often known as “junk food”) to try to boost feel-good brain chemicals. You order out because you are too tired or unmotivated to cook. The healthier foods you want to buy are too expensive on your limited food budget. Or you can’t afford to stock up on cheaper bulk items. Whatever the reasons, you start eating poorly and then feel even worse.
Whether it is smoking, alcohol, gambling, or drug abuse, some of the ways we deal with stress not only hurt our health but are dangerous to our financial futures as well. In fact, addiction and money problems are linked more often than most people realize, warns addiction expert and author Doug Thorburn. Family members or co-workers may be unaware of (or ignore) the signs of addiction until it’s too late.
Cost of Health Care
When money is tight, you can find yourself in a vicious circle, unable to get the care you need, and then paying more when your health problems turn into a crisis. Consumers with poor health and no financial cushion are likely to:
While there may be no simply solution to the healthcare or credit crises, there are things you can do to help restore your financial and physical health:
Commit to making small, positive changes toward a healthier, wealthier life. For example, you may decide to take a healthier lunch to work instead of grabbing fast food, walking around the block after dinner, or renting movies instead of going to the movie theater. Even small changes can make you feel better. But don’t try to give yourself an extreme makeover or you’ll probably end up more miserable than before. As Dr. Robert Maurer explains in his book, One Small Step Can Change Your Life, your brain is much less likely to resist changes when they are small.
A high credit score often equals savings on loans and credit cards.
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