Debt’s harmful health effects and how to avoid them

By • Published: November 4th, 2010
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Children’s toys, fancy party outfits, holiday decor, extravagant feasts, road trips to visit relatives… If you’re like most Americans, these are just some of the ways you’ll spend your hard-earned income this holiday season.

Or, maybe you’ll be spending money you don’t have. American consumers owe a total of $11.7 trillion, according to a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. That’s a hefty average of $49,000 per person.

All that debt is taking its toll on our health. A survey conducted in 2008 by the Associated Press and AOL shows people with high levels of stress over debt are more prone to health problems than those who aren’t so worried. Ulcers, heart trouble, headaches, severe anxiety or depression and sleeping problems all are more common in people with financial woes.

How can you reduce the toll debt takes on your body and mind? Create a budget focused on providing necessities and paying off debt. For many people, this means cutting back on non-essentials so you can attack that debt with vigor.

Next, vent your worries to someone, whether it’s a financial counselor, friend or professional therapist. This can reduce stress and you also might find the encouragement you need to make smart, but tough, financial choices.

Start this holiday season. Buy fewer toys for the kids, or find used ones at consignment shops. Borrow an outfit from a friend for that holiday party instead of purchasing a new one. Downsize the light display to keep the electric bill low. Plan ahead to buy food for your holiday feast when it goes on sale, and see if the grandparents will make the trip to see you this year.

You’ll feel good about saving, not guilty about spending. Your body and mind will thank you for it!