If you are struggling with big debt, you most likely are focusing on the financial consequences of your predicament. According to Credit Sesame’s 2016 proprietary data, those who have lower credit scores and more debt are less likely to log in to their accounts than those with higher credit card scores or less debt. The research also showed that those with large debts, $25,000 or more, logged in less frequently, compared to those with $5,000 of debt, logged in more frequently.
The reason for this behavior may be due to the fact that people don’t want to face bad news. After all, it’s an economic hardship to have student loans you can’t pay, credit card bills that are overdue, or a hefty mortgage that squeezes your monthly budget.
Likewise, many Americans who suffer from a low credit rating often hone in on the fiscal ramifications of their situation—like being forced to pay higher interest rates on loans, or being denied credit, and then having to turn to high-cost alternatives, like payday loans.
While all these financial problems are no doubt a part of living with high debt and poor credit, it’s also the case that economic woes may be the least of your troubles.
Here’s a look at the ways that debt and credit problems take a toll on you—namely by hurting your emotional and physical health, and harming the wellbeing of those you love too.
Money Troubles Affect Your Physical Health
Various studies have documented the links between financial stress and physical maladies. Money troubles—including issues with credit and debt—can bring on everything from headaches and insomnia to muscle tension and high blood pressure.
For example, one study, called “The High Price of Debt: Household financial debt and its impact on mental and physical health,” found that “high financial debt relative to available assets is associated with higher perceived stress and depression, worse self-reported general health, and higher diastolic blood pressure.”
These links between debt and stress held true even after researchers controlled for factors like prior physical health, socio-economic standing, psychological and other demographic factors.
This is bad news for a lot of Americans—especially debt-burdened Millennials trying to pay off student loans. Roughly 40% of the members of Generation Y say they’re “chronically stressed” about money and Millennials’ top financial priority is being debt free (64%), according to the Fall 2015 Better Money Habits Millennial Report.
Credit Card Debt Is Linked to Depression
The correlation between debt and depression isn’t limited to those in their 20s and 30s, or the highly educated crowd.
A University of Wisconsin-Madison study published in the May 2015 issue of the Journal of Family and Economic Issues also revealed that credit card debt is statistically linked to depression—but this time the correlation was found especially among individuals without college degrees, unmarried people, and those approaching retirement.
In fact, the study found that as people’s short-term debts rose, their symptoms of depression tended to increase as well.
A separate, more comprehensive report found further evidence of the way in which debt drags people down mentally and they are three times as likely to have mental health issues, compared with those who aren’t in debt.
How Kids Are Affected by Parents Who Face a Lot of Debt
It’s bad enough to think about the emotional and physical toll that debt may take on you personally. But what may be even more alarming—especially to parents—is the impact that debt has on their kids.
Kids are like sponges, and are keen to how parents are feeling, especially during times of economic hardship.
Children whose parents had either higher levels of or increases in unsecured debt (like credit card bills, medical debt and payday loans) were likely to experience poorer socio-emotional well-being.
Researchers theorized that having so much unsecured debt made parents more anxious and stressed out—diminishing their ability to demonstrate good parenting behaviors, and ultimately affecting the well-being of their children.
Interestingly, the study found a stark difference for those with secured debts.
Children with parents who had higher levels of home mortgage and student debt actually had a greater socio-emotional well-being and fewer behavioral issues than kids whose parents have smaller mortgages and less student loan debt.
These findings suggest that children may get an emotional boost from being raised in a setting where their parents are homeowners and are better educated.
Regardless of the type of debt you may owe, it’s clear that having excessive debt can wreak havoc on one; physically and emotionally. So ideally, you should keep all debt at manageable levels—or even better, strive to be debt free whenever possible.
LearnVest Planning Services is a registered investment adviser and subsidiary of LearnVest, Inc., that provides financial plans for its clients. Information shown is for illustrative purposes only and is not intended as investment, legal or tax planning advice. Unless specifically identified as such, the individuals interviewed or otherwise listed in this piece are neither clients, employees nor affiliates of LearnVest Planning Services and the views expressed are their own. Please consult a financial adviser, attorney or tax specialist for advice specific to your financial situation. LearnVest Planning Services and any third parties listed, linked to or otherwise appearing in this message are separate and unaffiliated and are not responsible for each other’s products, services or policies. LearnVest, Inc., is wholly owned by NM Planning, LLC, a subsidiary of The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company.