Money, however, is the main cause of stress in America, according to a poll by the American Psychological Association, which released the results Feb. 4. That financial stress is impacting health by causing some people to put health care needs on hold, according to Stress in America: Paying with Our Health Survey, conducted for the APA by the Harris Poll, which gathered information from more than 3,000 adults in August 2014.
Money worries are a major cause of conflict in relationships, the survey found. That’s no surprise. The broader impact of that finding from the survey is that financial stress affects a substantial percentage of relationships – about one-third of adults with partners.
“Regardless of the economic climate, money and finances have remained a top stressor since our survey began in 2007,” said American Psychological Association CEO Norman B. Anderson in a press release detailing the results of the survey. “The year’s survey shows that stress related to financial issues could have a significant impact on Americans’ health and well-being.”
The financial stress gap is widening between the haves and have-nots, which the survey divided at an income level of $50,000. For those living on the lower side of that income divide, stress has increased since the survey began in 2007. Back then, those on both sides of the $50,000 mark reported the same level of money worries.
“All Americans, particularly those groups most affected by stress – which include women, younger adults and those with lower incomes – need to address the issue soon than later in order to better their health and well-being,” said Anderson.
The first step in addressing stress caused by money is to recognize your concerns. Trying to ignore troubling bank statements or credit card bills or feeling embarrassed or ashamed about them will only increase the stress. Magic thinking isn’t likely to help either, like planning to win the lottery. Taking on a second or third job may be a two-edged sword – it might address some money problems in the short-term, but it also has the potential to detract from sources that stablize and enrich your life, like family time or recreation.
Here are five tips from the American Psychological Association that can help you move toward financial health, which in turn, can help reduce stress:
- Keep tabs – Track what you spend your money on so you know if you’re using your resources on things that matter most to you. Too many stops for coffee might be trickling dollars out of your wallet, almost without noticing.
- Develop a spending plan – If the thought of a “budget” sounds like more stress, just develop a spending “plan” that allows a bit of leeway for some things and activities that bring you joy and relaxation, perhaps tickets to sporting events or one evening out each week with your family for pizza. Cut back on spending that may be less valuable to you, maybe lunch out too often at work.
- Make it easy on yourself – Use automatic payments for some bills or have alerts sent to you, so financial priorities remain front and center, which can cut back on last minute spending decisions you might not be satisfied with in the long run.
- Use tools – Technology software can make it easier to track your spending, stick with a plan and reach your financial goals.
- Seek professional help – Not just in financial matters, but in examining and challenging deeply-held beliefs or ingrained behaviors. Some attitudes and beliefs about money were developed early in life and we’re not even aware of them. Research has shown that psychological treatment programs can reduce distress and anxiety and improve financial health among those with problematic financial behaviors.
More information and suggestions for dealing with financial stress are available from the American Psychological Association’s online resources, including the APA Help Center webpage and the APA Mind/Body Health Campaign blog.
American Psychological Association, “American Psychological Association Survey Shows Money Weighing on Americans’ Health Nationwide,” Feb. 4, 2015.
American Psychological Association, “Face the Numbers: Moving Past Financial Denial,” 2015.