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Financial Stress is at an Eight-Year High – and Inflation is the Top Concern



A new study says that employees are burnt out at work. Not because of the job – salaries aren’t keeping up with rapidly rising inflation.

BrightPlan surveyed 1,500 U.S. workers and found that financial stress is hurting employees’ mental and physical health. Pollsters from the California-based financial wellness group report that 72 percent of employees are stressed over money.

They’re most worried about…

  • Inflation: 79 percent
  • Retirement: 59 percent
  • Paying off debt: 44 percent

According to BrightPlan, companies can – and should – help their workers. The survey says that those who are financially stressed lose about 11 hours of productivity a week. This is likely because stressed employees have to take more sick leave, are more burnt out, and work slower. Workers don’t want this any more than businesses do. They don’t want to struggle, they want their company’s help.

Employees say that if their companies provided financial services, they’d feel more secure and work harder. They aren’t just deciding to take things easy at work. Constantly questioning your financial well-being and future can have serious mental and physical health consequences. The anxiety can make day-to-day tasks feel impossible.

How money affects the mind

The effects of financial stress extend beyond work hours and “pay by” dates. It seeps into the mind and can hurt every aspect of a person’s life – their work, their social life, and their health.

People are more stressed about money than they have been in eight years, according to the American Psychological Association’s (APA) annual survey.

In February, researchers reviewed 40 different studies that looked at the relationship between mental health and financial stress. The common thread between all of those papers? People with less income are more likely to be depressed.

To cope with this, more than 1 in 5 adults have turned to alcohol.

“Americans have been doing their best to persevere over these past two tumultuous years,” said Arthur Evans Jr., APA’s chief executive officer. “But this data suggests that we’re now reaching unprecedented levels of stress that will challenge our ability to cope.”

The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute found that half of all people struggling with debt are also struggling with their mental health. People struggling with finances also have much slower recovery times. Those with debt are four times more likely to still struggle with depression after 18 months.

Find out: Debt and Depression: How Money Stress Affects Mental Health

The weight of stress on the body

Financial stress can kill. While that might sound extreme, constant anxiety can really wear the body down.

A landmark study from Northwestern Medicine found that young adults with a lot of debt are more likely to have an increase in their diastolic blood pressure, putting them at greater risk for a stroke.

In 2022, the APA noted that 58 percent of stressed adults have undesired weight changes. On average they gained or lost 26 pounds. Nearly a third of Americans told the APA that their finances prevent them from living a healthy lifestyle. Adults with low income are twice as likely to agree with that.

Those who are stressed over finances also said they’ve skipped going to a doctor when they needed medical help, even though they’re more likely to need it. Old or young, adults with “extreme” stress are far more likely to report poorer physical health.

“You wouldn’t necessarily expect to see associations between debt and physical health in people who are so young,” said Elizabeth Sweet, the lead author in Northwestern’s study.

Poorer overall health reflects in the workplace too. BrightPlan’s survey notes an 18 percent drop in workers’ physical health. This means people have to take more sick days, which could mean a smaller paycheck – continuing the cycle of financial stress.

If this sounds all too familiar, there are free mental health hotlines and professionals who can help. There are also debt relief programs that can guide you towards financial freedom.

Find out: How to Cope with Financial Stress

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