Money may not buy happiness, but it can certainly buy peace of mind.

Recent studies have found that money is the leading source of stress for Canadians1 and that it’s literally making us sick.2 Financial stress can cause headaches, stomach aches, and even heart attacks. But it’s the impact on our minds that can be the most damaging.

Money worries can really stress us out. And when we’re stressed over a significant period of time, we’re three times more likely to have ulcers or digestive tract problems, 44 times more likely to suffer migraines, and our risk of heart attack increases by 200 percent. But it is our mental health that suffers the most. When under stress, we are 500 times more likely to experience increased anxiety and depression.3

This anxiety and depression is further exacerbated by the following:

Poor coping strategies.4 Many people try and cope with stress by drinking, smoking, overeating or eating unhealthy “comfort” foods and/or using legal or illegal drugs.

Conflicts. Our anxiety over money can cause us to become irritable, angry, and upset. We’re more likely to lash out verbally at co-workers, family members and friends.

Withdrawal.5 The last thing we want to do when we’re stressed or feeling blue is to be around other people, so many of us tend to withdraw. But that is exactly what we should not do because social isolation has been shown to be a key factor in developing or worsening depression.6

Poor self-care.7 Trimming the budget often includes cancelling gym memberships or eliminating other recreational pursuits that can in fact help us cope with anxiety. It is even more important to focus on maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle during times of increasing stress.

Lack of sleep.8 We can lose sleep worrying about our finances but a lack of sleep makes us less able to cope with stress—as well as cranky, forgetful and unable to concentrate. In addition, a long-term lack of quality sleep puts us at risk for serious health issues including obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

Improving financial and mental health

Although we may think there’s no way out of our money problems, there are steps we can take to regain our financial and mental health. For example:

  • Don’t hide.9 It’s easy to feel ashamed, embarrassed or depressed by money difficulties, but remember you’re not alone—almost half of the Canadian population feels stressed about their financial situation.10 So don’t isolate yourself or hide your problems. Let trusted friends and family members know. They’re probably facing similar issues and together you can provide emotional support to each other.
  • It is what it is.11 It doesn’t help to berate yourself, feel guilty or be upset. What’s done is done so accept the situation and instead of rehashing the past, look to the future and to finding solutions. However, it is a good idea to understand how you got into your current situation so that you don’t repeat the same mistakes.
  • Get control.12 You may think your financial situation is out of control, but it may not be. You do need a plan of action, though.
  • Get professional help.13 Call your bank or Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and request an appointment with a financial advisor. The picture may not be as grim as you think and a good financial advisor can quickly get you back on track.
  • Focus on your physical and mental health.14 Manage your stress levels by exercising regularly, eating healthy foods, making time for hobbies and pastimes and limiting alcohol consumption. And don’t eliminate all social activities from your budget. Friends help us keep things in perspective and laughter is the best stress reliever.

If your financial woes are causing you to feel severely depressed, get help. Contact your healthcare provider or your Employee Assistance Program.


  1. Financial Planning Standards Council (FPSC)
  2. Christopher G. Davis, Ph.D., and Janet Mantler, Ph.D. in “The Consequences of Financial Stress for Individuals, Families, and Society”, Carleton University 2004.
  3. American Medical Association.
  4. About Health
  5. Psych Central
  6. Psychology Today
  7. Psych Central
  8. Psych Central
  9. About Health
  10. 2012 Sun Life Canadian Health Index
  11. About Health
  12. Finances
  13. Money Aware
  14. Money Aware


 Courtesy of Homewood Health