According to the American Psychological Association (APA), stress caused by debt and financial problems can cause major health problems. It can also cause people to adopt unhealthy coping mechanisms like drinking or eating too much.
In a 2012 study about stress conducted by the APA, 69 percent of Americans named money as a source of stress. Other major stressors in people’s lives were work (65 percent), the economy (61 percent), family obligations (57 percent), relationships (56 percent), health problems within the family (52 percent), and personal health issues (51 percent).
What is stress?
Stress is the body’s reaction to any environmental or situational change that demands an immediate response. When a person feels threatened, their brain goes into fight-or-flight mode and orders the pituitary and adrenal glands to step up the production of cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones in turn cause the body to increase the heart rate, blood pressure and overall energy so the body can meet the challenge or threat.
Stress is normal. People experience stressful events all the time, and they also put stress on themselves. Stress can even be good for a person, for it can encourage alertness and adaptability. It can enable a person to meet a deadline or even save a life.
Stress becomes a negative, however, when it’s unrelenting. If a person is constantly under stress and gets no respite or relief, their health can suffer. Financial stress tends to fit that category, for it can take months or even years for a person to dig themselves out of a financial hole. Unending stress can cause a negative reaction called distress, the symptoms of which include high blood pressure, upset stomach, headaches, chest pain and insomnia.
Distress is unfortunately very common. Forty-three percent of all adults have reported health problems caused by or linked to stress. Seventy-five to 90 percent of all visits to a doctor’s office are due to health problems caused or worsened by stress.
Stress over financial problems is linked to such conditions as sleep disturbances, ulcers, migraines, and heart attacks. It can even increase the risk of developing diabetes. Stress is also linked to anxiety, depression, asthma, skin problems and arthritis.
Researchers aren’t entirely sure how stress increases the risk of heart disease. They aren’t certain if the stress itself directly increases the chances of heart disease, or if it simply exacerbates conditions like high cholesterol or high blood pressure that increase the chances of heart disease. It may be that stress both directly causes heart disease and exacerbates other conditions linked to it.
Stress does cause the production of hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, and chronically elevated levels of stress hormones may harm a person’s health. Studies have also shown that stress alters the way blood clots, and that can increase the chances of a heart attack, which is caused by a blood clot in the coronary artery. The clot blocks the artery and thus prevents the needed blood and oxygen from reaching the h