To coincide with Men’s Health Awareness Week, the theme of which is stress, financial experts from Trust Deed Scotland discuss the impact of debt on your mental and physical health. And what you can do about it.
Debt is a major problem in the UK. Research published earlier this year shows average household debt now stands at £13,520, a jump of £4,000 from last year. With nearly 10 million households having no savings whatsoever, it’s no surprise that Britons are struggling with the scale of debt.
Money problems negatively affect us in many ways, impacting on our mental health as well as our physical wellbeing. Here is how our health can be affected by debt problems.
How debt can affect your mental health
Research by the Royal College of Psychiatrists shows 50% of adults in the UK who are in problem debt also struggle with mental health. It’s thought money problems like these can result in:
- Low mood.
- Formal mental health disorders like depression.
It’s also thought there are links between economic crises and mental health problems. Research suggests the recent global economic downturn lead to a 3.3% rise in suicides, driven by higher unemployment rates.
Debt can be a considerable burden, made worse by dealing with it alone.
How debt can affect your physical health
Debt can have a number of effects on our physical health, including:
- Raised blood pressure – a 2013 study found young adults in heavy debt had significantly higher blood pressure.
- Low immunity – a 2011 study suggested stress could hinder our immune systems.
- Head pain – research found 44% of Americans in debt suffered from migraines and headaches.
Money worries can affect your sleeping too. A lack of sleep is bad for your health, because it can cause both mental and physical problems, including:
- Fatigue and low mood.
- Weakened immune system.
- Problems with metabolism.
More significantly, having regularly poor sleep can lead to serious medical conditions, including:
- Heart disease.
Tiredness caused by poor sleep can also affect your ability to perform tasks properly, such as operating machinery at work and driving a car.
What you can do about it
Debt can be a lonely place. As a result, it’s not uncommon for people with debt and health problems to ‘hide away’, putting off getting help for their difficulties. However, there are ways to improve the situation.
How to get help for mental health
Start by opening up, to a friend, family member or just someone you really trust. That could be a colleague, university lecturer or the bloke next door. Opening up helps you realise you’re not alone.
Speak to a GP too – they will be able to diagnose you and advise you as to what support is available to you. Find out what kind of mental health services are on offer, publicly and privately, in your local area.
There are many services that offer help for mental health problems, including:
For general advice and help on mental health, the NHS has an in-depth resource centre all about it.
How to have a good night’s sleep
It’s generally thought that 8 hours’ sleep a night is the optimum number of hours we need to function well in the day. In reality, it’s likely to be a bit more or a bit less than this depending on the person. Work out how much sleep you need then try to stick to that every night. Other ways you can enjoy a good sleep include:
- Avoiding alcohol before bed.
- Keep your bedroom dark and at a good temperature (around 18-21 Celsius).
- Turn off mobile phones, tablets and gadgets.
How to stay fit and active
If you don’t do a lot of exercise, maybe it’s time to give it a whirl. Exercise is known to be good for mental and physical wellbeing. You could start by:
- Running in your local park.
- Taking up an active hobby.
- Trying out Couch to 5k, a popular exercise podcast.
There are simple ways you can build physical activity into your day, including:
- Getting off the bus a few stops early and walking the rest of the way.
- Going for a brisk walk on your lunchbreak.
- Walking the dog.
- Hoovering the house and mowing the lawn.
- Using the stairs instead of the lift.
Where to turn for financial advice
If you feel like you don’t know where to turn, you can get financial help from:
- The Money Advice Service.
- Comparison websites.
Take a look at the Trust Deed Scotland blog too – it contains lots of financial help.
Clare Greechan of trustdeedscotland.net has been working in the insolvency industry for 18 years. She started her career as a junior cashier with KPMG before moving onto working for Invocas where she became head cashier, managing a team of 7 people and with responsibility for around 3000 client bank accounts. She then moved on to working with Kelsom Associates/Knightsbridge Insolvency where she dealt with all aspects of insolvency – from case management, collections of contributions and liaising with creditors as well as the cashier.