How Your Debt Is Affecting Your Health
Whether it be credit card debt, mortgages, or student loans, debt comes in all shapes and sizes, and Canadians are no safer than anyone else. Canada’s total household debt has now climbed to $1.8 trillion, with the average Canadian owing $22,837 (not including mortgages). While these numbers continue to rise with more and more people stacking up their debts, what many people are not aware of are the health consequences our unwelcome friend brings along as well.
A Big Hit on Your Physical Health
A study from Northwestern University found that young adults between the ages of 24 to 32 years old who had high debt-to-asset-ratios (meaning one would still be in debt after selling all their assets) had poorer general health than those with lower debts. A 1.3% higher level of blood pressure was found, which although may not sound like much, can actually have significant impacts on your overall health. To put in perspective, just a 2% increase is associated with a 17% higher risk of hypertension (high blood pressure), and a 15% higher risk of stroke.
People with high debt stress also have significantly higher rates of ulcers or digestive tract problems, migraines or other headaches, heart attacks, and muscle tension than those with low levels of debt stress. So, that debt of yours is actually affecting your physical health!
Worsened Mental Health
Higher levels of stress and depressive symptoms were also found in those with higher debts. People living with debt are 3 times more likely than others to suffer from mental illnesses, with depression symptoms worsening 14% for every 10% increase in personal debt. With depression symptoms increasing, so does the risk for suicide – suicidal thoughts and ideation are increased in those that are in debt.
Even debt-related stress can lead to lots of troubling symptoms, like lack of sleep, loss of focus, and that nagging worry that’s sitting in the back of your head and feels like its weighing your whole body down. It can affect how you behave in response to it, which can lead to overeating or undereating, social withdrawal, or even drug/alcohol abuse, none of which is great for you, and can often lead to other health problems if left unchecked.
Debt Anger Syndrome
The strain to pay bills is also resulting in an increase in anger-related illnesses, which has even been given a name: debt anger syndrome. Anger is already harmful to the body – at its most basic level, it’s an alarm system designed so you recognize a risk to your survival. So, imagine if you are constantly worrying and angry because of your debt – you place your mind and body in a constant state of alarm, leading to an increased risk of illnesses ranging from diabetes to heart disease, and even being more prone to getting the cold. Anger can also increase the effects of existing problems by weakening the body’s ability to take care and repair itself.
Sometimes, people will be in denial over their debt problems to avoid feeling depressed or anxious, which is a very dangerous way to cope with debt. It’s often that people will continue spending while ignoring their situation and put off dealing with the problems until something happens – legal action, debt collectors phoning, or credit denied, and usually by this point, their debt is already larger than they ever imagined.
If you are struggling with debt, do not put it off. The effects of debt on your well-being can be heavy and affects many parts of your life. Whatever the cause is of you being stuck in an uncomfortable level of debt, your goal should be to get out. Start by reducing your expenses, increasing your monthly payments to creditors, reduce interest rates, and paying off your bills by a set date. Even by just starting and taking small steps towards debt relief or simply changing your mindset, you’ll start to feel better. If you need additional help, seek out a credit or debt counselor, who can help review your monthly budget. If you’re looking to make a fresh financial start, seek a Licensed Insolvency Trustee, who can guide you through the bankruptcy or consumer proposal process, and help get you back on your feet.
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