What impact does worrying about money have on a person’s mental health?

I am sure nearly everyone worries about money at some point in their lives, whether that be on a grand scale that keeps them awake at night, or just knowing they will have to be careful with their spending, but what is the psychological impact on someone who struggles with it every day? In 2018, it was reported that 14 million people in the UK, including 4.5 million children, are living in poverty. Poverty is a complex problem, with no single measure able to define it, but in general it is when a person’s resources are well below their minimum needs. So with so many people experiencing this issue, what are the implications on their mental health? This article will use my own findings and personal opinions to answer this question.

Money and life

I find it sad and extremely worrying that in 2019 so many people are living with the added stress of being in poverty. Life can be stressful enough without being in a situation where people are struggling to have enough money to buy basic provisions such as food. In 2018 it was found that nearly 4 million adults in the UK have had to use food banks, which equates to 1 in 14 adults. To me, this is shocking, and without going political on the subject, something needs to change, and fast. Knowing the state of the country at the moment can put a spotlight on other reasons for mental health issues that people may be experiencing, because financial stress can be the source of other things occurring in people’s lives.

Financial stress and the impact on mental health

The NHS provides a webpage with some good advice for anyone struggling with money worries, along with sources of contact for anyone needing further help. This advice includes:

  • Feeling low or anxious is a normal response when you are struggling financially.
  • It is important to stay active, both in terms of exercising (to improve your mood) and carrying out normal routines, such as socialising with friends.
  • Don’t lose your daily routine; get up at your normal time and have proper meals, as well as doing other things you would normally do (if you have lost your job).
  • Face the fear of the situation you are in because not doing so may cause further problems, such as anxiety in other areas of your life (such as driving or travelling).
  • Don’t deal with the worry by drinking too much alcohol – it can add to the stress you may already be feeling, and it will not help the situation you are in.
From this list, it is easy to see the potential causes of worrying about money can have on a person’s mental health. Although not everyone reacts in the same way, the information does focus on not running away from what is going on, which I think a lot of people would, or would want to do when faced with financial worry. Stress is likely to be a factor in how a person feels when coping with financial concerns, and I think it is important to understand what the effects of this can be. The NHS states that the mental and physical effects of stress include:

  • Constant worrying
  • Racing thoughts
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Sleep problems
  • Muscle tension/pain
  • Tiredness
  • Eating too much/little
The NHS also provides information on ways of dealing with stress, which include:

  • Making sure you get enough sleep
  • Get regular exercise
  • Eat healthily
  • Use calming breathing exercises
  • Practice mindfulness to reduce stress and improve your mood
  • Share your problems with family and/or friends
I personally like that the NHS states that one of the ways to deal with stress is by talking things through with people you know. I am a strong believer in how talking can help someone with whatever is going on in their life. A problem cannot necessarily be solved in the practical sense, but it is highly possible that how a person thinks and feels about it going forward can be positively changed by discussing it with someone else.

The mental health charity ‘Mind’ also provides advice and information on how to cope with financial worries, and states that money and mental health are often linked because poor mental health can make managing money more difficult, and worrying about money can make mental health worse. It stresses how physical and mental health are closely linked and that exercise can make you feel better. This is something that is spoken about a lot, as it is to do with the release of serotonin, and it can be especially useful if a person has mild to moderate depression as it can boost their mood. However, I think even people who have not been diagnosed with depression can benefit from exercise, and it can be an easy and free way of having a positive impact on a person’s life and their mental health.

In this article I have explored the huge scale of the financial difficulty many people in the UK ae currently experiencing, and how this difficulty could impact on a person’s mental health. Stress and anxiety are two of the main consequences from such worrying, but I think only a person themselves can understand the full impact worrying about something has on them. Hopefully this article has shed some light on this topic both in terms of how vast this issue is within the UK as well as how it has the potential to impact on a person’s mental health. I think the most important thing to remember though is that there is a lot of help, advice, and support available for anyone worrying about money, no matter on what scale. I don’t think keeping worries to yourself is ever a good idea, and it can cause further problems in the long run, because the impact worrying about money can have on mental health has the potential to be huge.

Sarah Keeping MBPsS MSc PgDip GDip BA (Hons)

Follow Sarah on twitter at @keepingapproach