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The stress of financial debt may have these effects that go far beyond your wallet.

Feeling the burden of financial stress these days? Worrying about how you are going to pay your rent, auto loan and credit card bill? If you are struggling to make ends meet or you carry a lot of debt, you may be experiencing chronic stress. Depending on how you handle that stress, your financial debt may be significantly impacting your health.

Many people find it stressful when they carry a lot of debt or have other financial stressors. It can be quite a burden when you always have to think about how you’re going to be able to pay your bills each month. If finances are tight, having to make difficult decisions based on what you can or cannot afford can increase stress even more.

This stress can wreak havoc on not only your mental health, but your physical health, too. One study from Northwestern University looked at the health impact on young adults (ages 24 to 32) of having a high debt-to-asset ratio. This ratio compares what you owe, such as loans and recurring expenses like rent, to how much money you have saved or earn regularly.

The study found that people with higher debt-to-asset ratios had higher diastolic blood pressure, which increases the risk of hypertension and stroke. They also had more perceived stress and depression and reported that their general health was worse than those with lower debt-to-asset ratios.

Not only can stress raise your blood pressure and negatively impact your mental health, but chronic stress has been associated with a number of health issues, including headaches, digestive problems, sleep disturbances, muscle tension, weight gain, difficulty with memory and focus, heart disease, high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and susceptibility to some cancers.

Tips for Lowering Stress by Reducing Debt

Taking steps to lower the amount of debt you have can go a long way in reducing a major stressor in your life, but it’s not always easy to do so. There are various websites, apps and organizations that can help you develop a budget and can give you tools that make it easier to stick to it. Each person’s financial situation and tolerance for what they can live without is different, but here are a few general tips that may help:

  • List all of your debt, including how much you owe, what rate you are paying and any other pertinent details.
  • Consider consolidating or refinancing your debt, ideally with a lower interest rate.
  • Try to negotiate with your debtors to settle for less than you owe.
  • Add an extra payment each month or year to shorten your payoff time.
  • Make a list of all of your expenses and think about which ones you can live without. For example, you may find it easy to live without cable television, may be able to get a less-expensive cell phone plan or can agree to eat out less frequently.
  • Find ways to make more money. Consider side hustles that can bring in extra cash and use what you earn to pay off your debt, not to splurge.

By taking steps to reduce your debt, you are not only doing something good for your financial well-being but may also be helping to improve your physical and mental health. That’s quite an incentive to work hard to get debt under control, don’t you think?


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Date Last Reviewed: November 17, 2023

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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