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Financial stress and your health

8-minute read

Key facts

  • Money worries are a major source of stress in Australia.
  • They can lead to relationship problems, physical health problems and mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety.
  • You can minimise the impact of financial stress by looking after your health and seeking support from loved ones or professionals.
  • There are lots of services that provide everything from emergency relief, if you’re in crisis, to emotional and practical support.

How can financial stress impact my health?

Money worries a major source of stress in Australia, and can lead to relationship problems, depression or anxiety.

Some signs that financial stress is affecting your health and relationships include:

  • arguing with the people closest to you about money
  • difficulty sleeping
  • feeling angry, fearful or experiencing mood swings
  • tiredness, aches and pains
  • withdrawing from others
  • feeling guilty when you spend money
  • delaying health care you need, due to the cost

While these are normal reactions to being under financial stress, they can affect your health if they continue for more than a few weeks. You could be at risk of developing anxiety or depression. Some people use drugs or alcohol to help them cope. Some have thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

If you or someone else is at immediate risk of suicide or self-harm, call triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance.

What can cause financial stress?

Financial concerns are very common in Australia.

They can be caused by:

  • losing a job or being retrenched
  • being unemployed or unable to find enough work
  • having debts that you can’t pay
  • worrying about expected financial pressures

Some people’s financial problems might be a result of problem gambling.

What can I do to minimise the health impacts of financial stress?

If financial stress is impacting your health and relationships, here are some tips to help you through this difficult time:

  • Be aware of your emotions — Write down your worries to help you work out which issues to tackle first.
  • Look after your health — Eat a healthy, balanced diet and exercise regularly. Talk to your doctor if you have a medical condition that can be made worse by stress.
  • Share your feelings with supportive friends — Identify people you can talk to about how you are feeling, and who will help you stay positive.
  • Be honest with your family — Tell them about the situation and how it might affect the household budget. If your relationship with your partner is under stress, contact Relationships Australia on 1300 364 277 for support, advice and counselling.
  • Write up a budget — Write a summary of your finances and include how much money you need to cover each of your major your costs. You may need to limit your spending for a while. Put aside some money for bills, create an emergency fund and pay for essentials first to help ease the stress.
  • Contact your bank — Most financial institutions have policies in place to help customers experiencing financial problems. The Australian Banking Association website has lots of information about dealing with banks, and how to get help if you are in financial difficulty.
  • Contact a social worker on the Centrelink Employment Services Line — Call 132 850 (Monday to Friday 8 am to 5 pm) or visit a Services Australia customer service centre.

What can I do to help my situation if I lose my job?

  • Assess your financial situation — Work out how much money you have and how long it will last. You may have to change your spending habits until you get back on track. Try not to use credit cards. The high interest rate and repayments can add to your financial stress over time.
  • Find out about your entitlements — These may depend on your circumstances and some benefits have waiting periods, so contact Services Australia as soon as you can.
  • Contact your bank or financial institution if you owe them money — You may need to discuss different repayment options.
  • Contact your superannuation fund — You may be able to access your superannuation early, or access benefit entitlements if you are retrenched.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help — There are lots of services that provide everything from emergency relief if you’re in crisis to emotional and practical support. The Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) website MoneySmart lists a range of organisations that can help you through difficult times.

Where can I get help with planning, budgeting, and managing money?

Anyone can experience problems with money, whatever their background. It’s important not to keep it to yourself or try to deal with it alone.

Resources and support

Financial stress can trigger or worsen mental health conditions for some people. If you are feeling depressed or anxious about your situation, it’s important to seek support to reduce the risk of this happening.

If you or someone else is at immediate risk of suicide or self-harm, call triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance.

If you are feeling stressed, talk to your doctor or another trusted health professional to discuss your situation, and how you are feeling.

You can also call:

  • a trusted friend or family member
  • Beyond Blue — if you’re feeling depressed or anxious, call 1300 224 636 or chat online
  • Black Dog Institute — if you are affected by mood disorders visit the website for online help
  • Lifeline — if you need support through a personal crisis, call 13 11 14 or chat online
  • Suicide Call Back Service — if you are thinking about suicide, call 1300 659 467

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: April 2023

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