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Five Ways Your Debt May Be Making You Sick


We know there is a health care crisis in America. Over the past couple of years we have become painfully aware of the credit crisis as well. But while you may be aware that medical bills are a leading contributor to bankruptcy, you may not realize how quickly your debt can rob you of good health.

Here are some of the ways personal financial problems can hurt your health:

1. Silent Stress

Many of us may gripe about our spouses, kids, bosses, or even politics. But mum’s the word when it comes to talking about our money troubles. Instead, we silently put up with high levels of stress as we try to cope. Mental and physical stress can manifest itself in many ways, all of which are documented as being associated with financial stress:

  • Depression: Consumers with debt often suffer from clinical depression. This may be especially true for women. Far from a case of the blues, depression may make it very difficult to focus on finding solutions. Those suffering from depression may feel so anxious that simply picking up the phone to call creditors or a counseling firm could be overwhelming. Such individuals may believe that their situation is hopeless, with no way out.
  • Heart Attacks: In one study, those reporting severe financial stress were 1.33 times more likely to have a myocardial infarction, otherwise known as a heart attack.
  • Headaches or migraines:  Americans miss more than 156 million days of work due to headaches, and spend more than $400 million on over-the-counter pain relievers. Those with severe headaches, including migraines, may find their medication costs run into the hundreds – or thousands – of dollars each year. While not all headaches are stress-related, many can be triggered by financial problems.

And if health problems result in job loss, it may be downhill from there. Unemployed women report the worst physical health. Twenty-eight percent have high blood pressure, compared to nineteen percent of employed women, and six percent said they have had a heart attack, chest pain, or stroke, while only two percent of women with jobs have cardiovascular disease, according to one study.

2. Sleep Debt

“Are you sleeping?” I asked a father of three who called me recently during a financial crisis. “About three hours a night,” he replied.

He’s certainly not alone. As many as half of all credit-card carrying consumers surveyed report losing sleep over money worries.

Tossing and turning all night can result in something known in medical circles as “sleep debt.” And it creates its own health nightmares. Sleep-deprived people may find themselves unable to focus at work or with a short fuse at home. The National Sleep Foundation reports growing evidence of a link between a lack of good sleep and serious illnesses such as “obesity, diabetes, hypertension and depression.” Lack of sleep can easily affect mood, ability to stay alert on the job, and it also results in driving accidents.

Getting out of debt is a marathon for most people, not a sprint. And it is pretty hard to stay in the race when you aren’t getting enough sleep.