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How your financial situation can impact overall health and wellness

Kevin Spencer
Flickr: http://bit.ly/1MJUuvg

Get your piggy banks out. Despite technology, historical knowledge, the internet and so much more, Americans are still strapped for cash. But how do finances affect our health?

Brett Whysel is a lecturer in the business management department of the Borough of Manhattan Community College and cofounder of DecisionFish.com. He joined us on “Take Care” to discuss finances and our health.

Whysel does believe that we’re more aware of the psychology of money and relationships between financial health, mental health and physical health, but he does not believe that means people are more educated about their finances.

“I haven’t seen any evidence to suggest that it is the case that people are better educated today than they were 20, 30, 40 years ago,” Whysel said. “In fact, relative to what we really need to know in the context of such a complex environment, we actually -- I’m going to say -- we know less.”

Impacts on health

There is a myriad of reasons why it’s important to your health to be financially stable.

“One of them, just to start, is that if you are feeling financially insecure that can cause chronic stress,” Whysel said.

Chronic stress can have direct impacts on your mental and physical health, creating a constant fight or flight reaction. And the amount of income you have doesn’t necessarily indicate whether or not your experience stress.

“It is important to feel that you have control in terms of your spending today, in terms of your ability to bounce back from unexpected expenses, having the financial freedom to enjoy life and feeling like you’re on track to meet your long-term goals,” Whysel said.

Correlations between financial stress and mental/physical health issues:

  • Ulcers
  • Digestive issues
  • Migraines
  • Insomnia
  • High blood pressure
  • Back and muscle tension
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Dangerous feedback loops

Last year, Whysel wrote a piece for Forbes in which he describes three feedback loops that can occur when your financial health isn’t up to par. Each is a dangerous cycle.

Here’s a summary: Having stress over your finances can lead to health problems.

“When you’ve got these health problems and you’re in a country where you’ve got a trend towards high deductible health plans, these health issues can be very expensive,” Whysel said.

Those expensive medical bills cost money, subtracting from your financial health and -- in turn -- causing more stress. The same goes for mental health issues related to financial health.

Things get a bit more complicated when people delay medical treatment because of their financial feedback loop.

“We know that 56% of people with chronic diseases delay care. … And of course, that could make that physical health problem worse and then the ultimate financial cost of dealing with those health issues could be worse. Again increasing stress of the financial impact of that.” Whysel said.

Solving the problem

Whysel sees part of the solution in individual actions: asking for help from employers, focusing on the attitudes and behaviors that cause finances to worsen, and working on an emergency fund. But ultimately, he says the problem may need to be solved on a much larger scale.

“I think that it’s up to our society and our government to address issues of inequality, education, lack of a substantial safety net, deregulation and health policy that does not address the issues that we all are facing,” Whysel said.