How to Deal With the Stress of Debt
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By Amir Khan
Living with mountains of debt can be stressful to say the least, but over time, having to constantly worry about money can take a real toll on your health. In a Gallup poll released last week, people with large amounts of student debt reported being in poorer health than people without such debt – which health experts say comes as no surprise.
Gallup surveyed 29,560 Americans who graduated from college between 1990 and 2014, and found that only 24 percent of those who graduated with $50,000 or more in student loan debt reported good physical health, compared to 34 percent of those with no student debt. “Debt feels like an awful shameful thing,” says financial counselor Christine Hassler. “It can take away so much control from our lives, and that’s when we really start to feel the stress.”
Stress is a normal part of life, but sometimes, it can consume your entire life. ”When we’re talking about stress that is prolonged, it can be toxic,” says Nadja Reilly, a psychologist and associate director of the Freedman Center for Child and Family Development at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology. “It’s constant physical and emotional wear and tear.”
Stress, especially financial or other stress that lasts for days, weeks, months or even years, can impact your immune system and cause you to succumb to illnesses quicker, says Guy Mayeda, a cardiologist and vice chairman at the department of medicine at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles. “Stress produces a hormone called cortisol,” he says, “which overtime can cause you to gain weight and weakens your immune system.”
Long-term stress is linked to increased blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, obesity and more. “Stress causes you to engage in bad behaviors more readily,” Mayeda says. “For example, if someone smokes, they’re less likely to quit smoking when they’re under a lot of stress.”