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Health is wealth: Understanding how money & wellness intersect

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6 mins

It’s readily apparent that money can’t buy happiness, as evidenced by the prevalence of drug overdoses and suicides by affluent celebrities and business moguls. And it seems it can’t buy health, either. There are many unhappy millionaires in rehabilitation clinics and hospitals.

Just as an abundance of money is no guarantee of physical, mental, or emotional wellness, there is also a visible, undesirable connection between poverty and health. Inadequate nutrition, food insecurity, and lack of access to healthcare are just a few of the symptoms experienced by the poor in cities across America.

Might the middle or upper-middle classes be impervious to having their health adversely impacted by their personal finances? Not according to the American Psychological Association, which cited research performed by Columbia University’s Teachers College.

Columbia found that adolescents reared in suburban homes with an average family income of $120,000 reported higher rates of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse than any other socioeconomic group of young Americans.

One of Columbia’s researchers, Suniya Luthar, Ph.D., deftly observed, “Families living in poverty face enormous challenges, but we can’t assume that things are serene at the other end.”

It can’t be denied — there is a strong correlation between wellness and money, regardless of social class. Let’s look at how finances affect your mental health and physical fitness, and some strategies to improve your general well-being and bank account at the same time.

How your money affects your mental health

You’ll find plenty of memes on social media featuring depressed individuals overindulging with shopping. Negative outlooks often manifest themselves in spending habits that perpetuate debt.

It’s estimated that people carrying debt are as much as three times more likely to suffer from mental health disorders than those that are debt-free. Being constantly concerned about your finances and your ability to pay your bills manifests itself in:

  1. Depression: Financial insecurity can lead to feelings of depression. Low-income and the ongoing struggle to pay your bills each month can lead to feelings of despair and hopelessness. Living paycheck to paycheck creates a sense of entrapment, making it difficult to see further down the road and make sound long-term decisions.
  2. Anxiety: Worrying about your finances can often become an obsession over what can go wrong in just about every situation in your life. Feeling that you can’t positively respond to financial emergencies and that a single unexpected expense could cause financial ruin can become a constant source of anxiety. That ongoing stress can negatively impact your ability to improve your financial situation — creating a continuous cycle of mental distress.
  3. Low self-esteem: Our desire to successfully provide for ourselves and our loved ones is a basic part of our nature. When you’re experiencing financial stress, there is a lack of perceived power to provide, which diminishes self-worth.
  4. Memory impairment: Some research indicates that financial instability can cause memory loss. Ongoing high levels of anxiety have shown that people ultimately reach a tipping point that impacts their memories and mental performance.

It’s estimated that about ten percent of Americans suffer from some type of mental disorder. There is little doubt much of that can be tied to financial pressure, which is also the leading cause of divorce in the United States. The personal and economic impact of mental illness individually, locally, nationally, and globally is staggering.

[ Related: Is mental illness technically considered a disability? ]

Your finances & your physical fitness

Not only is your mental health impacted by financial concerns, but there is also an increased probability of adverse physical effects. For example, a constant state of anxiety has been linked with increased cortisol levels, which can cause:

  • High blood pressure
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Sleep problems
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Weight gain
  • Medical care avoidance

Many people stressed over their finances also employ coping mechanisms like abusing drugs and alcohol, and unhealthy eating, which are linked to many physical disorders, including heart disease, asthma, obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, accelerated aging, and premature death.

The long-term financial effects of COVID-19 on our physical fitness are also unquestionable, as overwhelming job losses and debt have created unprecedented financial stress globally.

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Improving your health & money

Financial health can’t be measured solely by the number of zero’s in your bank balance or your net worth. It’s also about how your money management supports all of your life goals, including your health. Some of the most effective strategies to improve your health and finances address both simultaneously.

Healthcare professionals can attest that hormonal and chemical reactions to stress, including financial stress, can be managed with a combination of proper exercise and mindfulness practices. You can improve your overall mental and physical health, which will positively impact your finances, by practicing a routine that includes:

  • Movement: Consistent physical activity not only will lower your overall healthcare costs; it will also improve cognitive functioning and increase your energy levels. Exercising is a great way to clear your mind, and it often inspires creative thinking, which can help you better tackle any financial concerns you may have.
  • Emotional connections: Having conversations about health and finances with confidants, personal or professional, can provide emotional support and decrease stress levels. In addition, unbiased third-party financial counseling will help you identify, prioritize, and put a plan into action that will improve your wealth.
  • Confidence boosters: According to a Vanderbilt study, small victories increase dopamine levels. This can increase your overall happiness and confidence to pursue larger financial goals.
  • A healthy diet: Eating healthy will lower your risk of health issues that lead to significant medical bills.
  • Consistent sleep: Good sleep hygiene increases your energy level, focus, and productivity. This will positively impact your bottom line by increasing your earning potential.
  • Reflection: Taking time to reflect on your day increases your awareness of your actions, including your spending and savings/investment habits. By reflecting on and studying areas needing improvement in your life, you’re better equipped to make sounder long-term financial decisions.

Lastly, improving your financial literacy will positively impact your finances and, as a result, your health. The more strides you make towards understanding personal finance, the wiser your financial decision-making will be, and the greater the probability your net worth will go up, and your stress level will drop.

[ Related: How to achieve financial freedom ]

The information and content provided herein is for educational purposes only, and should not be considered legal, tax, investment, or financial advice, recommendation, or endorsement. Breeze does not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, reliability or usefulness of any testimonials, opinions, advice, product or service offers, or other information provided here by third parties. Individuals are encouraged to seek advice from their own tax or legal counsel.

— Published March 2, 2022
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