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Financial stress and your health

6-minute read

How can financial stress impact health?

Money worries are one of the main sources 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 or fearful, mood swings, tiredness, muscle pain, loss of appetite, lower sex drive and withdrawing from others.

While these are normal reactions, 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.

People from all walks of life experience problems with money. It’s important not to bottle it all up and try to deal with it alone.

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 sufficient work, having debts that can’t be paid, or worrying about expected financial pressures. Some people’s financial problems might be a result of problem gambling.

Be realistic and take control of your financial situation. A good step is to seek help from a free financial counselling service (see below for more details).

Tips to deal with 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:

  • Stay on top 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 pre-existing medical condition that could be aggravated by stress.
  • Share your feelings with supportive friends and colleagues — Identify people you can talk to about how you are feeling and who will help you remain 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.
  • Draw up a budget — Write down a summary of your finances and work out how much money you need to cover your costs. You may need to limit your spending for a while. Putting aside some money for bills, creating an emergency fund and paying for essentials first can all help ease the stress.
  • Contact your bank — Most financial institutions have policies in place to assist customers experiencing financial problems. The Australian Bankers’ Association website has lots of information about dealing with banks.
  • Contact a social worker on the Centrelink Employment Services Line — Call 132 850 or visit a Services Australia customer service centre.

Tips to deal with losing a 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 your feet. Try not to use your credit card, because the high interest rate and repayments can add to your financial stress in the long run.
  • 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’s (ASIC) MoneySmart website lists a range of organisations that can assist you through difficult times.

Where to get help with planning, budgeting and managing money

Where to get help

Talk to your doctor or another trusted health professional if this is happening to you and discuss your situation and how you are feeling. You can also call:

  • Beyond blue (anyone feeling depressed or anxious) — call 1300 22 4636 or chat online.
  • Lifeline (anyone having a personal crisis) — call 13 11 14 or chat online.
  • Suicide Call Back Service (anyone thinking about suicide) — call 1300 659 467.
  • Black Dog Institute (people affected by mood disorders) — online help.

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

Last reviewed: December 2020

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