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Does Financial Stress Affect Mental Health? What to Know for When You Become a Wellness Counsellor

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We might tend to think of financial troubles as a set of problems distinct from mental health, but this is not the case. In fact, financial wellness is considered one of the major pillars of one’s well-being (Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, 2019), and a report from the Financial Planning Standards Council stated that 48% of Canadians (excluding those in Quebec) have reported losing sleep over financial troubles (“OMNI REPORT: FINANCIAL STRESS – fpsc.ca”, 2018). Financial concerns are among the biggest stressors a person can have in their life, and can manifest as genuine mental health issues.

Here are some things any wellness counsellor should know about the correlation between mental health, wellness, and financial stress.

Financial Stress Can Impact Many Aspects of Wellness

People feel the strain of financial stress on a mental level, in part through developing a greater risk for headaches, fatigue, sleep issues, anxiety, and depression (Kohli & Levy, 2017). However, financial stress can also lead to more physical health issues like heart disease, ulcers, and even diabetes (Kohli & Levy, 2017). In fact, those who experience great financial stress have been shown to be twice as likely to report subpar overall health, as well as being equally likely to call in sick to work despite not actually being ill (Kohli & Levy, 2017).

In particular, being in severe amounts of debt can be linked to deteriorating health; specifically, there appears to be a significant relationship between debt and mental disorders, drug dependency, depression, and suicide (Richardson, Elliott, & Roberts, 2013). Problems with mental health can also in turn affect financial health, as this can lead to harmful behaviours including avoiding outstanding financial problems, impulse buys, a decline in energy and self-esteem, and feelings of life being out of control—which lead to spending more money (Morin, 2019).

Severe debt and financial stress has been linked to depression, anxiety, and even suicide
Severe debt and financial stress has been linked to depression, anxiety, and even suicide

The Correlation Between Financial Stress and Mental Health Can Be Felt as Early as University

Those wanting to become a wellness counsellor would do well to recognize the signs of financial stress’ impact on clients’ mental health when it affects them at a younger age. Studies have shown that a link can exist between male and female college students’ financial worries and general anxiety based on lack of family support and rising tuition costs without financial aid being high enough to offset those increases (Tran, Lam, & Legg, 2018). Other studies on undergraduate university students have posited that the greater one’s financial problems are, the worse their mental health can be, and that this can lead to depression, worsened anxiety, and an increased dependence on alcohol. Mental health issues appear to especially affect women, non-Caucasians, and people with disabilities (Richardson, Elliott, Roberts, & Jansen, 2016). Financial worries can affect one’s mental health as early as when they’re in university, and aspiring wellness counsellors may want to try and address any possible signs of this with younger clients.

Helping to Ease Financial Worries Once You Become a Wellness Counsellor

Although paying for visits to a wellness counsellor can be a whole other layer of financial strain for some, those experiencing that kind of stress could benefit from it regardless. While getting your wellness counsellor diploma, you may not necessarily learn about how to help clients in financial distress specifically, but you can learn how to help them identify obstacles to them achieving optimal wellness. Furthermore, you can assess their wellness from a mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual point of view, allowing you to see how their issues with money manifest themselves in those areas (“Rhodes Wellness College: Wellness Counsellor Diploma”). 

Help clients identify factors leading to their financial stresses, some of which can be generational
Help clients identify factors leading to their financial stresses, some of which can be generational

You can help clients by identifying and focusing on the psychological and emotional factors and triggers that may have led to the client’s financial troubles (“Money and Financial Issues”, 2019). For example, if a client is prone to impulse buying while feeling stressed about family matters, addressing underlying emotional factors can help prevent harmful behaviour. You can also help them notice subconscious and unconscious factors affecting their financial behaviours. Some of these can be based on generational attitudes toward money, such as the attitudes held by one’s parents (Coambs, 2019). Whatever your approach to improving clients’ wellness is, your objective is to help them attain the best possible satisfaction on many levels.

Want to enroll in a wellness counselling program in Vancouver?

Contact Rhodes Wellness College for more information!

Works Cited

Financial Consumer Agency of Canada. (2019, March 28). Government of Canada. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/financial-consumer-agency/services/financial-wellness-work/stress-impacts.html.

OMNI REPORT: FINANCIAL STRESS – fpsc.ca. (2018, May 7). Retrieved from http://fpsc.ca/docs/default-source/FPSC/news-publications/fpsc_financial-stress-survey.pdf.

Kohli, S., & Levy, R. (2017, May). Employee Financial Health: How Companies Can Invest in … Retrieved from https://s3.amazonaws.com/cfsi-innovation-files/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/26183930/2017-Employee-FinHealth.pdf.

Tran, A. G. T. T., Lam, C. K., & Legg, E. (2018). Financial Stress, Social Supports, Gender, and Anxiety During College: A Stress-Buffering Perspective. The Counseling Psychologist, 46(7), 846–869. doi: 10.1177/0011000018806687

Richardson, T., Elliott, P., Roberts, R., & Jansen, M. (2016). A Longitudinal Study of Financial Difficulties and Mental Health in a National Sample of British Undergraduate Students. Community Mental Health Journal, 53(3), 344–352. doi: 10.1007/s10597-016-0052-0

Morin, A. (2019, August 20). 7 Reasons Mental Health Issues And Financial Issues Tend to Go Hand-in-Hand (And It Has Nothing to Do With the Cost of Treatment). Retrieved from https://www.inc.com/amy-morin/7-reasons-mental-health-issues-financial-issues-tend-to-go-hand-in-hand-and-it-has-nothing-to-do-with-cost-of-treatment.html.

Richardson, T., Elliott, P., & Roberts, R. (2013). The relationship between personal unsecured debt and mental and physical health: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review, 33(8), 1148–1162. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2013.08.009

Rhodes Wellness College: Wellness Counsellor Diploma. (n.d.). Retrieved November 6, 2019, from https://www.rhodescollege.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/wellness-counsellor-diploma-program-outline.pdf.

Money and Financial Issues. (2019, September 13). Retrieved from https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/issues/money-and-financial-issues.

Coambs, E. (2019, February 28). How financial therapy can improve your money habits: Haven Life. Retrieved from https://havenlife.com/blog/financial-therapy/.