According to new data from the American Psychological Association and other studies, money is the leading cause of stress for Americans.
In fact, 76 percent of Americans report that financial worries stress them out the most, above even work (70 percent), angst about the economy (65 percent), family responsibilities (47 percent) and personal health concerns (46 percent).
1 in 5 people even quantify their level of financial stress as “extremely high, ” and 26 percent of people report feeling stressed about money “most or all of the time.”
What’s shocking is that percentage is up even since the heart of the Great Recession, with 73 percent in 2007, 72 percent in 2008, and 71 percent in 2009 reporting the same.
The state of our national financial stress level in 2016-17 is also the highest it’s been in five years, with workers facing increased financial burdens and higher levels of debt, according to data.
Those findings are seconded by PwC’s Employee Financial Wellness Survey, which found that 52 percent of American adults are stressed about their finances.
An alarming 45 percent of adults surveyed report that their stress level has increased over just the last 12 months.
And 72 percent of Americans say that they’ve felt stressed about money at some point during just the past month, and 22 percent say that they’ve experienced “extreme stress” during that time.
Worrying about finances is most prevalent among Millennials, with 42 percent having student loan debt and 79 percent saying that their student loans have a significant impact on their ability to keep up financially.
Women also report having higher levels of stress about money than men (about 15 percent higher) and are more likely to feel stress about money all or most of the time (almost 10 percent higher).
Our stress about finances is taking a huge negative toll in our lives, including in the workplace.
In fact, 28 percent of employees say that problems with their personal finances have been a distraction at work, which is up from 20 percent just last year.
Furthermore, 46 percent say that they’re so distracted by money issues at work that they spend three or more hours each week thinking about or dealing with those problems – on the clock!
So it’s not surprising that our distraction over financial stress is affecting our work performance. In fact, 83 percent of HR managers report that financial challenges and problems impact employee work performance.
Money tension is also causing us health problems like never before. In fact, 28 percent of American adults report that their health has been negatively impacted by their financial worries.
Stress causes physical symptoms. While stress does cause many psychological discomforts and effects, it also manifests itself through physical symptoms. 77% of people who report symptoms related to stress also experience physical symptoms.
These can include tight shoulders, back pain, digestive problems, headaches, dizziness, difficulty breathing, chest pain, abdominal pain, lack of energy, a change in sex drive, grinding teeth, fatigue, muscle tension, and especially the inability to sleep. 66% of Americans blame stress for their nighttime tossing and turning.
Among American adults surveyed about the health issues emerging from their financial stress in the last month, 37 percent reported feeling irritable or angry, 35 percent felt nervous or anxious, 34 percent had a lack of interest or motivation, 32 percent suffered from fatigue, 32 percent felt overwhelmed, and 32 percent felt depressed.
According to the Center for Disease Control, stress is implicated as a factor in heart, stomach & mental disorders as well as high blood pressure & high cholesterol levels.
In an obvious vicious cycle, our financial worries are also keeping us from seeking out health care. Nearly 1 in 5 Americans say that they’ve considered skipping/or skipped going to the doctor when they needed health care because they were worried about paying for it.
What’s also unique about our national worry about money is that there’s a huge discrepancy between stress levels among the rich and poor. In fact, households that bring in less than $50,000 have much higher stress levels over finances now, but members of higher-income households worry far less.
Sounds like common sense, right? But as recently as 2007, levels of stress over money matters were the same among those low and high-income households. But by 2014, a clear divide among financial stress had emerged, mirroring the widening distribution of wealth in our country.
Another note to consider is that our stress levels about money are up, but our overall stress levels are down. On a scale of 1-10, surveys show that our overall stress levels are now about 4.9, down from 6.2 in 2007.
How else is financial stress affecting our lives? Research shows that worries and challenges about money are also seriously impacting our relationships, from dating to marriages (and far too many divorces) to family dynamics.
In part two of this blog, we’ll cover in-depth the huge toll financial stress is taking on our relationships and marriages, called Financial Infidelity.