Today, the most important piece of gym equipment is the ATM.
In the past decade, consumer credit debt alone has more than doubled, increasing by nearly 58 percent from about $2,663,780 to $4,205,759 according to the Federal Reserve. That’s bad news for our health and money, as researchers continue to link financial wellness with overall health.
Studies have found that unsecured debt is directly related to poor health, and such research has revealed that low-income individuals are adversely affected by the psychological and physical effects of financial stress — including debt from loans. As the cycles of money insecurity and poor health perpetuate one another, they eventually manifest into tangible concerns including depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, and weight gain.
In this post, we explore how finances play into fitness, plus how to improve your relationship between health and money, according to the experts.
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Ancient Greek physician, Herophilus, has been cited as the mastermind behind the phrase, “when health is absent, wealth becomes useless.” Today, the saying has been modified to simply, “health is better than wealth.”
What Does ‘Health Is Better Than Wealth’ Mean?
- You can be happy with good health and no money, but you can’t be happy with money and poor health.
- The idiom illustrates that no matter how much money you have if you’re not healthy, you can’t be happy because you’re worried about mortality.
Let’s compare this Greek ideology alongside modern research that suggests your financial wellbeing plays a direct role in your physiological wellness.
While money may not buy happiness, research continues to correlate the relationship between health and money, namely, financial stress and poor physical and psychological health. To put it simply, money provides healthcare, and healthcare is the basis of wellbeing.
Outside of an argument for either health or wealth being better than the other, let’s explore how your financial life is intertwined with your physical and mental wellbeing.
Money is a basic need to survive. When you don’t have a means of survival, it can be compounded into stress. The Stress in America report analyzes national stress levels annually. In 2020, 64 percent of adults indicated money being a significant stressor, and over half experienced negative financial effects due to COVID-19.
“[Financial] stress can result in significant mental health disorders … and acutely lead to headaches, heart palpitations, chest pain, weight gain/loss, and problems with your sleep. Over the long term, this can result in high blood pressure, heart disease, and strokes, to name a few chronic health conditions. The symptoms are also not mutually exclusive and can actually feed into one another.”
—Judy Wright, MD, JW Health Consulting, LLC
Chronic stress over time creates not only mental health challenges but also negative physical reactions such as digestive problems, immune disorders, sleeplessness, and unhealthy coping mechanisms.
Money and mental health have a reciprocal relationship. Namely, negative feelings can translate into spending habits that perpetuate debt. A study about the psychosocial context of financial stress reveals that people with debt are three times more likely to suffer from mental health problems. When you’re constantly concerned about money and the ability to pay bills, your body reacts with a trauma response.
Poor money habits continue the cycle of negative feelings, making it difficult to improve one without improving the other.
Despite the global prevalence of psychological disorders, with upwards of 4 percent of the world’s population suffering from mental illness at any given time, these issues haven’t been considered a priority for policymakers and economists.
Anxiety responses are activated by personal factors and situational influences — such as the financial strain of COVID-19 across entire communities. Exacerbated by the pandemic, mental health disorders uncovered decision-making processes that directly relate to ongoing poverty in our society. Today, mental healthcare has come to the forefront as a tool for poverty reduction.
As mental health is impacted by financial concerns, the probability of adverse physical effects increases. For example, a constant state of anxiety increases cortisol levels. Increased cortisol can result in:
Stress is a reaction to external threats that causes your body to produce adrenaline. Adrenaline is a hormone that prompts increased breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure known as “fight or flight.” This is a reaction that occurs in order to protect ourselves from the proposed threat.
The long-term physical effects of COVID-19 will be staggering, as overwhelming job loss, debt, and financial insecurity created unprecedented financial stress across the world. When these stressors aren’t identified and addressed, they can lead to more serious and, in some cases, life-threatening health problems like heart disease, stroke, and cancer.
Financial health isn’t about the number of zeros in your bank account. It’s about how your money management supports your overall life goals. The best strategies to improve health and money address both at once.
“Financial health exists when people’s daily financial systems enable them to be resilient and pursue opportunities … to spend, save, borrow, and plan effectively.”
—The Urban Institute
The hormonal and chemical reactions to financial stress can be managed with proper exercise and mindfulness practices. Improve your health and money by creating a routine that includes movement, emotional connections, confidence boosts, a healthy diet, consistent sleep, and reflection.
Financial literacy impacts the ability to improve our financial lives, and it’s important to consider how money, mental health, and physical health are intertwined with overall wellness.
By taking care of our health, we’re directly impacting our ability to regulate stress. When our stress is regulated, it’s easier to control financial stressors like unanticipated expenses, building credit, and paying back loans.