Debt—everybody’s got it, so how bad can it really be? Well, the fact of the matter is we are a nation in the red. Student-loan debt has doubled since 2007, credit-card debt is on the rise, and more than a third of Americans are late paying their bills. In fact, Uncle Sam is nearly $20 Trillion in debt—almost doubling since 2008.
Regardless of who you are or why you owe money, science suggests that being in debt could be affecting your physical and mental wellness. Here are just some of the reasons to find solutions for your debt.
It can create hypertension
A 2013 study from Northwestern University found that adults ages 24 to 32 who had high debt-to-asset ratios (meaning that if you sold all of your belongings, you still wouldn’t have enough money to pay back what you owe), tended to report poorer health in general. They also had significantly higher blood pressure—a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. These findings came as a bit of a surprise since people in this age group are generally healthy.
It can lead to anxiety
You probably didn’t need a study to tell you this, but research also found that those in greater debt reported perceived stress levels 11.7% higher than average. And there is strong evidence to suggest that increased stress levels are linked to higher blood pressure while also having serious effects on an individual’s psychological health. The more prolonged the debt problem, the more health issues are likely to arise.
It’s been linked to depression
It’s not just young people who feel the strain of debt—older adults can also fall victim to financial troubles and it can affect their mental well-being. In a 2014 Rutgers University study, adults age 51 and older were more likely to report depressive symptoms when they owed a high amount of unsecured debt (i.e., credit card and medical bills) and didn’t feel in control of their financial situation.
It may lower your immunity
Although there haven’t been any large-scale studies done specifically on debt and the immune system, experts say it isn’t difficult to draw an association between the two. Studies have shown that chronic stress can suppress the immune system and it is a known fact that debt is a huge source of chronic stress. And if worrying about debt causes sleep deprivation, the body’s ability to fight off infection is impaired, which can also lead to health problems. In fact, people who have high levels of credit card or medical debt are less likely to visit a doctor or dentist for regular checkups or even when sick because they can’t afford the added bills.
Debt Affecting Health
It can be a pain in the neck—literally
Do you have chronic aches and pains? If an Associated Press/AOL Health poll is any indication, your credit card statements may have something to do with your physical symptoms. A 2008 survey found that 44% of people with high levels of “debt stress” had frequent migraines and headaches, compared with just 15% of those who don’t. These same people were also more likely to have muscle tension, back pain, ulcers or digestive tract problems—even suffer heart attacks.
It could ruin your relationship
Debt doesn’t have to drive a couple apart, but if it’s something you and your significant other argue about frequently, it’s not a good sign. In a 2012 study published in Family Relations, newlywed couples who disagreed about financial issues at least once a week were more likely to divorce within five years than those who argued about other issues, such as chores, in-laws, or time spent together.
With all of the evidence available today about how debt can affect an individual’s health, putting together a debt solutions plan that entails debt consolidation or even the debt settlement process may be just what the doctor orders.