The Impact of Financial Stress on the Body

Megan Miller
March 16, 2017


Benjamin Franklin once said “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” I would venture to say that most of us are familiar with this, or some other iteration. Franklin’s words make it clear that money is an absolute. It affects everyone, no matter the form.

When this looming absolute of money mixes with every day anxieties, we are left with financial stress. This is where we run into trouble. Between paying bills on time, being mindful of debt, maintaining a “good” credit score, and yes, taxes, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and preoccupied with finances. Being behind in our financial lives can have far-reaching consequences, and not just on our wallets! Financial stress can take its toll on our bodies too.

Physical effects

Our bodies have a hardwired response to stress; when we experience an event, adrenal glands release the hormone cortisol, which returns to normal once we complete the event/task. The problem is many people’s cortisol levels are not decreasing! Our bodies were designed to handle acute episodes of stress; but our lives have been overrun by one stressful event after another, causing repeat exposure to cortisol. According to a Psychology Today article, Cortisol: Why “The Stress Hormone” is Public Enemy No. 1, this is also known as chronic stress, which can put you at risk for:

  • Lowered immune function and bone density
  • Weight gain
  • Increased blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • Depression and mental illness
  • Lowered life expectancy

Reducing stress

We can all agree that financial stress is, well, stressful. So what can we do about it? Many workplaces now provide some kind of financial education or programming through a wellness or employee assistance program (EAP). You might also look into a no-cost or low-cost debt relief program. Here are additional ways to manage your financial stress:

  • Get regular exercise
  • Try relaxation methods (meditation, prayer, etc.)
  • Set aside time for hobbies
  • Talk to your doctor or healthcare provider
  • Socialize with family and friends

It’s time to take control of your financial life!