More than money

More than money: how financial stress affects mental and physical health

As inflation increases and interest rates rise, more and more Australians are at risk of experiencing financial stress. While it may seem like it’s all about the money, financial stress has significant mental and physical health risks as well.

What is financial stress?

Financial stress is broadly defined as having difficulty paying for the basics – things like rent, mortgage, bills or food – because you don’t have enough money.

People experiencing financial stress are at risk of bad debts due to short-term or predatory lending, as well as housing insecurity or homelessness.

What causes financial stress?

Like anything relating to personal circumstances, financial stress has many causes. Money may be tight due to reduced hours, to job losses, trouble with gambling or other addictions.

While low income is a direct cause of financial stress, the Australian Department of Education, Skills and Employment notes that financial stress is not as simple as ‘money in versus money out’. Financial stress can also include the inability to raise emergency funds or build up a safety net through savings, which means people get caught out when unexpected expenses come up.

Irregular cash flow due to casual work or inconsistent work hours is a cause of financial stress on its own but it creates a cycle of stress that stretches far beyond living week to week. People with inconsistent incomes may not qualify for loans or rental agreements if they can’t meet certain income criteria, which in turn leads to more stress.

Signs and symptoms of financial stress

At a very basic level, if you notice your income isn’t covering your expenses, you’re borrowing increasing amounts of money or you’re in fear of losing your housing, it’s likely you’re experiencing financial stress.

You might be having problems in your relationships, arguing with loved ones about money or withdrawing from friends and family.

Financial stress can also have physical and psychological symptoms, including:

  • Feeling scared or guilty about your financial situation
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Headaches
  • Feeling tired or drained all the time

Getting help to manage your finances

Increased financial literacy, or simply knowing more about how money works, can decrease a person’s risk of financial stress.

If you’re already experiencing financial stress, MoneySmart is an Australian Government initiative that connects you with free financial counselling, urgent help with money and useful advice on budgeting and financial planning.

The site also includes information on managing on a low income and how to handle problems paying bills, rent or fines.

Taking care of your mental health

Recovering from financial stress is more than just increasing your income, writing up a budget or learning more about how money works.

The lasting distress and habits from prolonged periods of financial stress need attention too. This can include small, daily rituals such as meditation or looking after sleep hygiene but, if negative thoughts or feelings persist, it’s a good idea to talk to a professional.

Reach out for support

Just like physical illnesses, the treatment and specialist care a person might need for one mental illness may not be suited to the next person.

As the largest private provider of mental health care in Australia, we are dedicated to making a real difference in the lives of those we treat, with whatever pathway they need.

We offer a range of services designed to support people experiencing mental health issues associated with financial stress, including anxiety, depression, and a wide range of other conditions.

We encourage you to reach out to our expert team who can assist you in finding the right avenue for your mental health care journey.