Extract from an article by Darragh O’Keeffe
Darragh O’Keeffe says increasing numbers of Australians are living with immense money worries that are impacting on their physical and mental health, but it is important to know that help is available.
It was a break-up with her partner four years ago that plunged Shari Rainbow into sudden financial dire straits.
“Within a month, I went from owning my own home and having a pretty successful small business to losing the lot and being left in debt,” says Ms Rainbow, who lives on the Gold Coast with her three children.
It did not take long for the huge financial stress to affect her health and wellbeing.
“I became a complete insomniac,” she says.
“I’ve probably managed three or four nights of proper sleep over the past four years.”
She lost a lot of weight and, perhaps most upsetting of all, she began to lose her hair.
Even though she came from a large family and was close to her parents and four siblings, Ms Rainbow felt she could not ask for help; in fact, she became increasingly isolated.
Money worries ‘top cause of stress’
Ms Rainbow’s experience is not unique.
Research clearly shows an increasing number of Australians are living with immense money worries.
Finances regularly top our list of worries according to the annual Stress and Wellbeing report by the Australian Psychological Society.
“Australians’ concerns about money have not abated,” says the survey, which the APS published annually between 2010 and 2015.
“Financial issues are rated as the top cause of stress over the first years.”
Other research published late last year found 24 per cent of the 2,000 Australian employees surveyed were feeling financially stressed.
This was across all industries, income levels and roles.
“Employees who are financially stressed are less satisfied with their lives, less engaged with their employers and ultimately more likely to underperform at work,” the research commissioned by AMP found.
While the triggers of financial stress differ among individuals, the report identified five key themes: bad debt, home loans, retirement, supporting the family and budgeting.
Similarly, research by the Centre for Social Impact conducted for National Australia Bank found that two million Australians are experiencing severe or high financial stress, while a further 10 million are living with some level of financial worry.
That study found one in two Australians have limited to no savings, while one in six report they are just managing to make repayments on debt.
What’s more, those researching financial stress in Australia say the issue is getting worse.
In its most recent report, Facing Financial Stress, Wesley Mission, a charity that provides financial counselling and financial literacy education programs, identified a growing number of people living with financial hardship.
Wesley’s survey of 500 households in NSW found 44 per cent were facing financial stress, up 7 per cent from 2010.
The charity also found that 38 per cent of households were spending more than they earn.
Bad for our health
Most of this research has identified the physical and psychological toll that money concerns can take.
There are links with mental and physical health issues, family breakdown and substance abuse, and it can lead to social disengagement and isolation.
For Dina Bowman, who has been talking to low-income households about how they manage financial uncertainty, health issues and financial stress are a “chicken and egg” problem.
“Often health concerns can trigger financial distress, say, if someone can no longer work because of an illness,” says Dr Bowman, Principal Research Fellow in Work and Economic Security at the Brotherhood of St Laurence.
“But financial worry can in turn trigger health concerns, as people unsurprisingly become distressed and anxious.”..(continues)
SOURCE: Darragh O’Keeffe, “Financial stress: We’re worrying ourselves sick over money”, PS News Professional, 28 feb 2017
BroCAP is produced by the two librarians at the Brotherhood of St Laurence in Melbourne, Australia.