How debt impacts mental health
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09-23-15 Category: Anxiety, Depression, Mental Health, Stress


For most, less money means more stress. The U.S. Census Bureau and the Federal Reserve report that the average amount of credit card debt per household in the United States is approximately $7,697. These weighty numbers can lead to feelings of anxiety and depression. Those who struggle with mental health issues might be more likely to find themselves in debt in the first place, often dealing with contributing factors, such as unemployment or reckless spending. The high cost of mental health care can also send this population into financial distress. Researchers worldwide continue to examine the ways in which debt and mental health issues are related, focusing on reducing the prevalence of both.

A 2013 study conducted by researchers at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom found that people facing any amount of debt are more prone to depression and other mental health disorders than those who are debt-free. However, the relationship between financial stressors and mental health is complex and both issues likely contribute to each other. One of the clinical psychologists who worked on the study, Dr. Thomas Richardson, explains, “People who are depressed may struggle to cope financially and get into debt, which sends them deeper into depression.” The study found that depression, suicide and substance abuse were the most common mental health issues associated with indebtedness.

Student debt is an increasing epidemic in the United States, so much so that some 2016 presidential candidates are using student debt eradication as a platform for their campaigns. However, a 2004 study conducted by the United Kingdom’s University of Leeds, titled “Student Debt and Its Relation to Student Mental Health,” found that students’ attitudes toward debt might impact their mental health more than the financial strain alone. While not having to deal with student loans and seemingly insurmountable debt would likely improve overall mental health among college populations, these researchers found that a more immediate remedy might be the development of coping tools or other ways to improve outlook surrounding student debt. The text of the study explains, “All students face debt and financial concerns but how they perceive these difficulties seems to impact… their mental health.”

If you or a loved one is facing mental health issues relating to debt or other financial triggers, you are not alone. London’s Royal College of Psychiatrists reports that debt is an “important risk factor for mental disorder.” Help is available. Sovereign Health Group treats individuals struggling with mental health disorders, substance abuse and dual diagnosis. Call us to speak with a professional today.

Written by Courtney Howard, Sovereign Health Group writer

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