Is Personal Debt Costing us our Mental Health?
Is our relationship with money bad for us? Recent figures suggest that the average household now owes about £13,000 – not including mortgages. Low interest rates mean that credit is relatively cheap and freely available and, as a result, borrowing has become the way many of us are able to afford the expensive things in life.
That’s where greater knowledge of finances is required – both in terms of people knowing what they’re letting themselves in for in the first place and also with an understanding what help they have available to get themselves out of trouble, with options such as debt management plans also known as DMP.
Impact of debt
Much has been said about the potential economic impact of debt. Indeed, the Bank of England recently expressed its alarm over an apparent consumer spending binge. There’s a fear that if we overstretch ourselves then we’ll be in a bad position to withstand an economic storm if one were to arrive.
But the impact of debt is felt far beyond the figures on a spreadsheet. Carrying more and more debt brings as much of an emotional burden as it does a financial one, and that is taking its toll on a large number of people across the UK.
It’s said that you are as much as six times more likely to have a crisis with debt if you have a mental health issue, while half of the people seeking help for problems with debt have mental health issues. Sadly, both fuel each other to the extent that they are seen as a ‘marriage made in hell’.
Mental health issues can manifest themselves in a number of ways. Stress, anxiety attacks and even clinical depression can all stem from – or be exacerbated – by money worries and this can become part of life at home and in the workplace.
Analysis by The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute showed that about two-thirds of workers who have financial issues also display at least one sign of poor mental health that affects them at work. Just over a third say they have lost sleep, while just under a third feel they struggle to concentrate on the tasks they have to perform at work.
Problems with debt seem to start sooner than ever too. The increase in tuition fees and the rising cost of living have been blamed for the increase in stress levels felt by students and one in seven have been chased by debt collectors after missing rent payments. Three-quarters of the students who have a maintenance loan say they feel stressed about the debts they are wracking up, while 39 per cent say they cannot afford their weekly shop.
Clearly the issue isn’t so much personal debt – it’d be wrong to say that everyone with a loan or a credit card is suffering from mental health issues as a result – but more concerned with ‘problem’ debt. Once debt spirals out of control and reaches a level where people feel they can’t pay back what they owe, then it becomes a big issue. Some people react badly to this – either burying their head in the sand or panicking.
From our student days onwards, debt is now a common part of modern life. It’s important, however, to realise both the financial and emotional impact that this is having on the population. Mental health is a difficult issue that is finally now being discussed more widely in society. It’s important that, as the debate grows, people take into account the relationship between debt and mental health. Tackling money issues could prove key to helping an awful lot of people who suffer from mental health problems going forward.