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The #1 Reason We’re Still So Stressed Out

Americans are drowning in financial troubles. Credit card debt hit a record high this year at more than $1 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve. Student loan debt has jumped 150 percent over the span of just a decade. And not only are we drowning in debt, we’re also not saving, which further compounds the problem. About 1 in 4 Americans don’t even have a single dollar saved for an emergency. All of this takes a big toll on us, emotionally and physically.

A survey by the American Institute of CPAs found that more than half of Americans with debt say that it’s negatively impacted their lives. What’s more, money is the No. 1 cause of stress for Americans, according to data from the American Psychological Association.

“Regardless of the economic climate, money and finances have remained the top stressor since our survey began in 2007,” the results revealed.

And now a new survey reveals that Americans who report poor financial health also tend to have poor physical health. Indeed, they are significantly less likely to practice healthy physical habits (59% do not get routine check-ups and 60% do not get regular exercise) and are more likely to skip preventative health measures due to cost (38%). “Bad wealth begets bad health,” the survey concluded. What’s more, these money issues are causing more than just some feelings of dread, malaise, and skipped doctor’s office visits. Below are just some of the many ways financial stress can seriously impact your health.

Depression and anxiety. People with greater financial stress have more symptoms of depression and anxiety than those who aren’t financially stressed, according to a 2013 study published in the journal Anxiety, Coping and Stress.

Migraines. A study released in September of last year found that for many people, financial stress is related to getting more migraines. Indeed, some people have a certain genetic variation of the so-called CLOCK gene, which helps control things like body temperature and levels of the stress hormone cortisol. About ⅓ of the population has this variation, and are more likely to get migraines in times of financial stress.

Ulcers and digestive issues. People who are under high financial stress are way more likely to complain of ulcers and digestive problems than those who have low, or lower financial stress.

High blood pressure, weight gain/obesity, and heart attacks. High levels of debt may also lead to higher blood pressure, according to a 2013 study of 8400 young adults published in the journal Social Science Medicine. Overtime, treating hypertension and diabetes can be very costly, contributing to more stress and sickness.

Disrupted sleep. Well over half of both women (68%) and men (56%) say they lose sleep at least occasionally because they’re worried about money, according to a survey of 1,000 adults released in 2016 by All this can be very costly, as Americans are notorious for spending a significant amount of money on sleep aids. This pattern ironically contributes to the never-ending worry cycle.

While money can’t buy one’s health per se, the peace of mind it can bring is priceless. Our finances can truly be in our control, for the most part, but it requires a lot of discipline, a set plan in motion, self-restraint and focus not just all year around, but especially around the holidays. If we budget ourselves accordingly, and not live outside our means, we can gain control of our financial health, which will translate over time to a greater peace of mind, with our physical and mental health intact — the latter being the most important. Of course, this is a lot easier said than done with Mr. Jones living down the block, but as with most problems in life, awareness is usually the first step before any true recovery can take place. This is also true with our financial state as well. Here’s to better health, and wealth in 2019!


Dickler, J. (2017, August 29). Student loan balances jump nearly 150 percent in a decade. Retrieved from

American Psychological Association survey shows money stress weighing on Americans’ health nationwide [press release]. (2015, February 4). Retrieved from

Is your financial health affecting your quality of life? (n.d.) Retrieved from

Financial stress is associated with migraine, if you have specific circadian gene variants [public release]. European College of Neuropsychopharmacology. Retrieved from

The #1 Reason We’re Still So Stressed Out

Emily Waters

Emily Waters earned her Master's degree in industrial psychology with an emphasis in human relations. She possesses keen insight into the field of applied psychology, organizational development, motivation, and stress, the latter of which is ubiquitous in the workplace environment and in one’s personal life. One of her academic passions is the understanding of human nature and illness as it pertains to the mind and body. Prior to obtaining her degree, she worked in both the corporate and nonprofit sectors. Presently, she teaches a variety of psychology courses both in public and private universities.

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APA Reference
Waters, E. (2018). The #1 Reason We’re Still So Stressed Out. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 26 Dec 2018 (Originally: 26 Dec 2018)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 26 Dec 2018
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