According to the American Psychology Association, money has ranked as the number one stressor for Americans since they began polling in 2007.1 Even in the middle of a pandemic, financial stress topped the charts as the most stressful thing people were experiencing.2

Financial stress goes beyond simply worrying about paying bills. That stress can also cause some serious physical health issues. People with high financial stress are twice as likely to report poor health and four times as likely to complain of ailments. 

Here are six surprising ways financial stress can impact your students' health and what to do about it.

1. Sleep Loss

Money worries are the biggest cause of sleep loss among American adults, with 78% reporting it as an issue.3 Sleep has long been touted as a key to maintaining optimal health.

Aside from being fatigued, lack of sleep can cause multiple other issues. Getting enough sleep helps to boost immunity, keep your weight healthy, and prevent diabetes, among other things.4 

College students who work more hours generally get less sleep, so those students with high financial stress are the most impacted.5

2. Headaches

Headaches and migraines can come on when you suffer from high levels of financial stress. These can impact your work or family life, as migraines are often debilitating.

3. Digestive Issues

Psychological stress can also lead to multiple digestive issues. One example is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Acute or chronic psychological stress has been shown to have an impact on intestinal sensitivity and other factors that contribute to the development of IBS.6

4. High Blood Pressure and Heart Problems

One of the most well-recognized physical signs of stress is high blood pressure.

For example, people who carry a large amount of debt have a 31% higher risk of being diagnosed with high blood pressure.7 Those with serious financial stress are thirteen times more likely to have a heart attack.8

5. Anxiety and Depression

Financial stress takes a serious toll on mental health, with it increasing the odds of being diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder by 90%.7 These disorders then bring their own slew of physical symptoms – including hyperventilation, sleep loss,8 headaches, and chest pain.10

Keep Reading: Study Shows Student Financial Stress is Harming Mental Health

6. Unhealthy Habits

Studies have shown that increased financial stress often leads to an increased risk of heavy drinking and smoking.10 These things not only cause physical issues but often increase the financial burden through poor spending habits.

Other unhealthy habits that people develop due to money worries are overeating or recreational drug use.3

How It Adds Up

The physical ailments associated with financial stress can lead to higher absentee rates among students, or trouble with academics. Students with high financial stress are more likely to take longer than four years to graduate, leading to increased expenses and a longer delay in earning a salary.12

In previous posts, we've shared some signs that financial stress is impacting your students and how introducing a financial wellness program can help improve their performance.

What to Do About It

Financial stress is strongly associated with poor financial literacy.13

Schools can help their students and themselves by providing financial wellness resources, like the iGrad Financial Wellness platform. These programs can help improve financial literacy and decrease financial stress no matter what a person’s starting point is.

Every step taken toward financial wellness is a step away from physical ailments and medical expenses.



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