Financial stress can affect your physical health

ROSE Miller, grants manager at the JN Foundation and head of the JN BeWi$e Financial Empower Programme, says the age-old adage, “health is wealth”, is more than a clich as financial mismanagement can seriously impact one’s physical and mental well-being.

Many Jamaicans are being diagnosed with lifestyle illnesses, such as heart disease and strokes, with non-communicable diseases (NCDs) representing two-thirds of all deaths in Jamaica. Data from the Ministry of Health show that NCDs are the leading cause of death in Jamaica accounting for 79 per cent of all deaths.

Miller noted that while NCDs share several common, modifiable risk factors — tobacco use, harmful alcohol abuse, physical inactivity, and unhealthy diet, taking strides to improve financial health can also have benefits for physical and mental health.

“Part of a wellness-centred lifestyle should also include paying careful attention to your finances and ensuring that you’re setting yourself up for a prosperous life,” she advised.

Here are some of the most common ways poor money management can manifest itself physically:

1. 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 in the United States of America showed that adults ages 24 to 32, who had high debts, also had higher diastolic blood pressure. “This is an age group, which money issues aside, should be in optimal health. When it comes to heart disease, you can’t help your genetic predisposition; however, you can certainly make an effort to pay down your debts as quickly as possible, which will be of significant help,” Miller said.

2. Greater muscle tension

Muscle tension, including back pain, has been reported in persons with high debt stress. In addition, 44 per cent had migraines or other headaches, compared to just 15 per cent 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 exercises, such as walking, aerobics, or simple stretches,” Miller advised.

3. Worsened digestive symptoms

The digestive system is often referred to as the centre of health. When under heavy financial stress, many persons do not maintain proper eating habits. Healthy food may not even be accessible, or affordable for those in financial trouble. In addition, statistics from a 2008 Associated Press-AOL Health poll reveals that, 27 per cent of persons with high debt stress, reported having ulcers or other digestive tract problems, compared to just eight per cent without debt stress.

4. Depression

If you have major debts, or if you recently lost your job, things can turn bleak very quickly if you are without a financial cushion. Feelings of despair are, therefore, common. The 2008 Associated Press-AOL Health poll also revealed that, some 23 per cent of those persons with debt, reported having severe depression, compared to just four per cent who were not indebted. The poll also found that, there was a 14 per cent increase in depression symptoms, with every 10 per cent increase in personal debt.

Miller advised that a life well lived is based on proper financial management. “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. There is a very strong connection between 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 needs be, prioritise health as it is a critical pillar and provides the basic ingredient for pursuing wealth and a successful life.”

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