THE HEALTH RISKS OF DEBT STRESS

A guest post by Joe Plemon, owner and writer at Personal Finance by the Book. Joe is a financial coach and great blog writer. He also deserves a tremendous amount of praise for successfully raising 4 kids! Please sign up for his RSS feed for more great articles from Joe.

4003446559_2326c2609eThink twice before you sign the papers on that new car loan.  It could kill you and I am not talking about a traffic accident.  An Associated Press survey links debt stress to such health issues as ulcers, headaches, anxiety, depression and heart attacks.  And the problem is growing: there is a 14 percent increase in debt stress in the past four years.

Of those reporting high stress from debt, 27% had ulcers or digestive tract problems, 44% had migraines, 29% suffered severe anxiety, 23% had severe depression and 6% reported heart attacks.  The heart attack rate is double those with low debt stress; the other illnesses are worse: 3-7 times those with low debt stress.

Although these statistics should not surprise us, many people do not see the connection: higher debt brings on higher stress. We somehow have fooled ourselves into believing that the “good life” consists of driving the newest car, wearing designer clothing, eating out at the chic restaurants and taking posh vacations.  And we do it all on credit,  telling ourselves it is OK if we can just make that monthly payment.  But this “good life” is a mirage: it is ruining our health.

A truly good life is always living on less than you make.  It is paying cash for your purchases and planning for your future.  It is a life of peace and contentment.  It is a life of low stress and solid relationships and great marriages.

Suppose you currently have $20,000 in consumer debt and you buy a shiny new car.  With that new car smell comes twice the debt and twice the stress.  If, instead, you applied that new car payment to your debt, you should be debt free in less than two years.

So here is the choice: sacrifice your lifestyle and save your health or save your lifestyle and sacrifice your health.  Your stuff or your health.  Which will you choose?

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photo by blw photography


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20 comments to THE HEALTH RISKS OF DEBT STRESS

  • Hi Eliminate The Muda! Thanks for the mention:).
    .-= Amanda L Grossman´s last blog ..Article Roundup =-.

  • The stress you feel from debt cannot be over-emphasized. However, what may be worse is not feeling stress and instead, continuing to spend with reckless abandon! 🙂

    I also know people that overly stress about becoming debt free and fail to enjoy life. You have to find that happy balance I suppose.
    .-= Everyday Tips´s last blog ..Exercise: Do You Really Have To Spend Much Money To Stay In Shape? =-.

  • @Everyday tips,
    Good point about stress. No stress can be bad and too much can be bad. The right amount can be a motivator to make us do what we need to do. Of course when we do what we need to be doing with our finances, the stress level drops…until we feel that stress again and take another action. That, in my thinking, is healthy.

    The health problems develop when the stress level stays high and no action is taken to alleviate it.

    Like you said, we need that happy balance.
    .-= Joe Plemon´s last blog ..Paper Currency Certainly Isn’t What It Used To Be =-.

  • This is an interesting association. Are you aware of data suggesting that no debt being associated with less health problems? I do know that people who are fiscally responsible tend to be physically responsible as well.
    .-= Roshawn @ Watson Inc´s last blog ..Yakezie Round Up & Uncommon Money News (Vol. 97) =-.

  • Roshawn,
    No, I am not aware of a study suggesting that no debt equals less health problems, but, based on the study I cited (more debt stress = more health issues) it is a very small leap in logic to assume that less debt would bring on less stress which would result in less health problems.

    I think your observation about fiscal responsibility tied to physical responsibility would be valid many times. It seems to me that the person who takes the effort to take care of his finances would be the same type of person who would also take the effort to take care of his body. Just a hunch. Let me know if you discover any substantiating data.
    .-= Joe Plemon´s last blog ..Paper Currency Certainly Isn’t What It Used To Be =-.

  • This post reminds me of what my sister is going through right now. She went to part time because she was letting the stress of her job kill her, but she was working so many hours because she had tons of bills to pay for the excess lifestyle she is living. Things had quieted down for her after she went to the part time but then her husband’s job had an across the board pay cut and they were finding they couldn’t even meet their payment amounts. So back to full time she goes, and now she is back to being stressed and high-wired. My mother suggested to her why she doesn’t just stop all the crazy spending and she said “Mother, we LIKE buying things, we LIKE eating out, (like 5 x’s a week), we like taking expensive vacations, I cannot believe you would even suggest we stop spending” I think my sister is nuts! Does she not get the connection yet? She’s 49 years old, when will she ever learn?

  • Finally getting to even,
    The worn out definition of insanity is “doing the same thing and hoping for different results”. No, I am not saying your sister is insane, but YOU are asking if she is nuts. You are wondering when she will ever learn to curb her spending…that is the conundrum. I suppose when the stress pain from her debt outweighs the perceived advantages of her out of control lifestyle.
    .-= Joe Plemon´s last blog ..Paper Currency Certainly Isn’t What It Used To Be =-.

  • They’ve also discussed the OPPOSITE end of the spectrum – constantly worrying about your: savings rate, investment portfolio, retirement savings, etc etc can lead to same issues.

    Looks like the middle-ground is: “Worry enough about money to eliminate debt, but not enough to fulfill your wildest dreams”
    .-= FinEngr´s last blog ..Fraud Prevention in Under 5 Minutes =-.

  • @Fin Eng,
    I am sure you are right. I guess if people want to find things to worry about, they will. I still am thinking that “debt stress” would have more adverse affects than “wealth stress”, but know of no studies to back that up.
    .-= Joe Plemon´s last blog ..Paper Currency Certainly Isn’t What It Used To Be =-.

  • This post couldn’t be more appropriate for me. At Financially Digital I am in the middle of a consult with a small business client and they just told me about their migraines and stress. Go figure that their financial books are really in good order (YET!) and that they are working themselves into the ground on all kinds of inefficiencies. I know I’m not a Dr. but by the end of it I’ll know I did a good job if those headaches and anxieties go away. It’s really no joke people all over get physically ill when there’s too much uncertainty or they think they are in over their heads. Great post!!
    .-= Nunzio Bruno´s last blog ..Fundamental VS Technical Analysis Part 1 =-.

  • Nunzio,
    You might not be a doctor, but you have the healing balm these people need. Will you be able to follow up after your consult to actually find out if the migraines disappeared? That would be very interesting!
    .-= Joe Plemon´s last blog ..Paper Currency Certainly Isn’t What It Used To Be =-.

  • I completely agree with this… “A truly good life is always living on less than you make. It is paying cash for your purchases and planning for your future. It is a life of peace and contentment. It is a life of low stress and solid relationships and great marriages.”

    Now, if only our governments operated the same way 😉

    Thanks for the mention! P.S., I only received the pingback just now, so I didn’t know! WordPress seems flaky with those at times…
    .-= Kevin@InvestItWisely´s last blog ..Your First Home: a Condo, or a House? =-.

  • Kevin,
    Great quote. Did you write that yourself? About government living by it…well, spending someone else’s money is considerably different than spending your own money.
    .-= Joe Plemon´s last blog ..Paper Currency Certainly Isn’t What It Used To Be =-.

  • Nope, you did! 😉

    Yep, it’s certainly easier to spend money if you don’t have to personally feel the repercussions …
    .-= Kevin@InvestItWisely´s last blog ..Your First Home: a Condo, or a House? =-.

  • Kevin,
    How embarrassing that I don’t even know what I wrote. Thanks for the good word!
    .-= Joe Plemon´s last blog ..Paper Currency Certainly Isn’t What It Used To Be =-.

  • I do believe also with Everyday Tips about needing some amounts of stress because it can lead you to move forward with goals that may have eluded you in the past. Balancing the stress is your insurance that you won’t become overwhelmed but can use it as a catalyst to see things through.
    .-= Jerry´s last blog ..How To Instantly Improve Your Selling Ability =-.

  • Jerry,
    Absolutely. Good stress moves us to positive action. Negative stress immobilizes us. The difference, in my thinking, is how we react to stress…”balancing” it, as you say.
    .-= Joe Plemon´s last blog ..An Autumn Love Affair / Weekly Roundup =-.

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