Skip to content

    Health & Balance

    Font Size

    The Debt-Stress Connection

    Gas and food prices are sky-high, the stock market is down, and the housing market is in the doldrums. But can worrying about the health of your bank account really make you sick?
    WebMD Feature
    Reviewed by Matthew Hoffman, MD

    Graphic designer Joshua Lurie-Terrell of Sacramento, Calif., described himself as an easy-going person. That is, he did until the market started tanking and he and his wife lost half of their retirement savings.

    "I never let stress run my life before. But ever since money got tight, I've found that I'm a prisoner to it," he says. He worries that if he fills up the gas tank, he won't be able to afford the movies on the weekend, or if he keeps paying for health insurance, he won't be able to get his wife the birthday present she wants. With a baby on the way, he has seriously considered taking a second job on the night shift.

    Recommended Related to Mind, Body, Spirit

    5 Ways Music Helps the Mind

    By Serusha Govender Your brain loves music like Willy Wonka loves chocolate. No, really, it does. Let’s paint a picture of your brain on music: While sound drifts through your auditory pathways, pitch registers in the language center, rhythm rockets through the motor regions, and the rest of your brain chips in to puzzle out tune, predict melody, connect it to memory and decide whether or not you want to buy it on iTunes. "Your brain lights up like a Christmas tree when you listen to music," says...

    Read the 5 Ways Music Helps the Mind article > >

    But then this past spring, the 37-year-old suffered a heart attack, even though he had no warning signs or risks. His doctors point to stress as a major contributing factor.

    "I feel like I'm a completely different person than I was," he tells WebMD. "I would attribute more than 90% to worrying about my finances. I've tried to do everything that Suze Orman says to do, but we still have problems."

    Lurie-Terrell is certainly not alone. Money is a leading source of stress for Americans, according to a 2007 survey by the American Psychological Association. In the survey, 73% of the respondents cited money as a significant source of stress in their lives. Today, more than three out of every four American families are in debt, according to the Federal Reserve's Survey of Consumer Finances.

    An AP-AOL study reveals that debt-related stress is 14% higher in 2008 than in 2004. Those who report high levels of debt stress suffer from a range of stress-related illnesses including ulcers, migraines, back pain, anxiety, depression, and heart attacks.

    With fuel and food prices on the rise and the economic crunch targeting more Americans, this is a critical time to examine these serious health concerns and stress management.

    The debt-stress connection: Fighting the saber-tooth tiger

    There's a general reaction to stress that's been a part of our genetic makeup from the time we were cavemen, says Jay Winner, MD. Winner is author of Take the Stress Out of Your Life. Back then, when a saber-tooth tiger appeared, your heart would race, your pupils would dilate, and your body would release stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. That way, you'd be able to fight the saber-tooth tiger -- or run.

    1 | 2 | 3 | 4

    Today on WebMD

    woman in yoga class
    6 health benefits of yoga.
    beautiful girl lying down of grass
    10 relaxation techniques to try.
    mature woman with glass of water
    Do you really need to drink 8 glasses of water a day?
    coffee beans in shape of mug
    Get the facts.
    Take your medication
    Hand appearing to hold the sun
    Hungover man
    Welcome mat and wellington boots
    Woman worn out on couch
    Happy and sad faces
    Fingertip with string tied in a bow
    laughing family