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42% of U.S. adults say that money negatively impacts their mental health

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Having enough money to easily pay for regular expenses while also funding upcoming goals provides people with a sense of security and positivity. So it’s a safe assumption that insufficient money has the opposite effect. Now data proves it.

A new Money and Mental Health report, developed by Bankrate and Psych Central in April 2022, found that a significant portion of Americans experience financial worries. Of the respondents surveyed, 42 percent cited money concerns as having a negative impact on their mental health

Everything from dealing with debt to managing money was linked to a decline in psychological well-being, leading to such outcomes as anxiety, stress, worrisome thoughts, loss of sleep and depression.

Money and mental health survey: Key findings

The survey unearthed many striking statistics, including:

  • Women are more likely to be negatively affected than men. Women are significantly more likely to cite money as having a negative impact on their mental health, with 46 percent selecting it compared to 38 percent of men.
  • Millennials suffer most. The survey found that 48 percent of millennials (26 to 41 year olds) are psychologically impacted by financial concerns, followed by 46 percent of Generation X (42 to 57 year olds). Generation Z (18 to 25 year olds) isn’t far behind though, with money issues reportedly causing mental health concerns for 40 percent of this group.
  • Higher earners experience less emotional distress than low earners. Only 30 percent of people with annual incomes of at least $100,000 cited money as a negative factor in their mental health. That’s compared to 48 percent of those with household incomes of less than $50,000.
  • Worrying about money is a frequent event. Among those who cited money as having a negative impact on their mental health, 28 percent said they worry about it daily. These daily worriers were more often male (32 percent compared to 24 percent of females), with high school degrees or less (32 percent compared to 25 percent of those with some college or more) and were in younger age groups (34 percent of Gen Z and 36 percent of millennials compared to 27 percent of Gen X and 17 percent of baby boomers).

The survey of 2,457 adults was conducted online by YouGov between April 6 and 8, 2022. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all U.S. adults (18+).

The link between negative financial experiences and emotions

One of the most prevalent and pressing concerns people have is the ability to meet an essential financial outlay. Having money tucked away for the unexpected is a strong emotional safety net. Consequently, it’s not much of a surprise that the survey also found that insufficient emergency savings emerged as the top factor, with 57 percent of those who worry about money citing it as a specific issue that has a negative impact on their mental health; this is especially true among Gen Xers (60 percent), millennials (59 percent) and women (60 percent).

“When it comes to sources of our collective and individual mental distress, it turns out that money is towards the top of the list,” says Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst, Washington Bureau Chief for Bankrate. “Once again, the failure to save for emergencies is an overriding concern.”

And then there’s stress, a word that has become ubiquitous among Americans of all ages. When the survey asked about emotions and feelings, respondents who said that money negatively impacts their mental health most often reported being “stressed” (70 percent).

But that’s just one expression for the sentiments associated with money. Other common responses (all more prevalent among women and Gen Xers) include being worried (71 percent of both women and Gen X), anxious (61 percent and 62 percent, respectively), overwhelmed (55 percent each) and insecure (44 percent and 46 percent, respectively).

“These survey results are sobering as financial stress impacts us all regardless of age, gender and race,” says Faye McCray, editor-in-chief of Psych Central, a Healthline Media company. “Often we equate our financial situation with our worthiness and that may prevent us from seeking support when the worry and anxiety become too overwhelming.”

— Faye McCray,Editor-in-chief of Psych Central, a Healthline Media company

Triggering financial events and mental health

Negative emotions about money often come from a specific type of activity. Not all, though, are extraordinary events. According to Hamrick, just talking about money can generate negative feelings, particularly for younger Americans.

“And among adults who say money can have a negative impact on their mental health, about half (49 percent) say looking at their bank accounts is a trigger,” says Hamrick. “This suggests that as a society, we need to do a better job having experiences with, and conversations about, money.”

There are plenty of other situations that produce adverse emotions, too. Needing to come up with enough money to pay for unexpected expenses leads the list, cited by 69 percent of those who worry about money, while 52 percent said it is when bills are coming due.

The other events that those negatively impacted by money said spark negative feelings are, in order of most to least common:

  • Looking at their bank accounts (49 percent)
  • Paying a bill (41 percent)
  • Making a purchase (34 percent)
  • Having to talk about money (32 percent)
  • Getting paid (21 percent)
  • Looking at their investment accounts (16 percent)
  • Looking at social media (11 percent)

Given that these activities are part of everyday life, finding healthy ways to handle them is essential. That includes reaching out for help when necessary.

“It is important to give ourselves grace and take advantage of resources to prioritize our mental health especially when navigating difficult financial times,” says McCray.

— Faye McCray,Editor-in-chief of Psych Central, a Healthline Media company

What’s next: Softening inflation concerns with savings

Before inflation started to soar in January 2022, the U.S. economy appeared to be on a positive track. Now the dramatic rise in the cost of essential goods and services is adding to the sense of personal economic insecurity.

“Lately, the bad news about inflation has all but sidelined the positive impact of a low unemployment rate, and understandably so,” says Hamrick. “Until the economy is deemed to be on a more constructive trajectory, it is likely that money and personal finances are going to be a significant source of stress for many Americans.”

To offset as many of the troubles that money concerns elicit, especially as prices on necessities are rising, making every effort to save money can help. After all, not being able to cover the cost of a crisis was cited as the number one concern in the survey.

“If we can effectively prioritize emergency savings along with other financial goals, it may pay a double-edged dividend of both financial and mental well-being,” says Hamrick.

The bottom line

Financial insecurity can clearly have a profound impact on our mental health, whether we’re struggling to meet immediate needs or simply trying to have a difficult conversation about money. It’s important to give yourself grace and ask for help if you need it. Commit to small steps to gain a greater sense of financial control—refine a budget, identify methods to earn more, reduce high interest debt and set even a little cash aside for the future.

Methodology

Bankrate.com commissioned YouGov Plc to conduct the survey. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. The total sample size was 2,457 adults, including 1,045 who said money has a negative impact on their mental health. Fieldwork was undertaken between April 6 and 8, 2022. The survey was carried out online and meets rigorous quality standards. It employed a nonprobability-based sample using quotas upfront during collection and then a weighting scheme on the back end designed and proven to provide nationally representative results.

Written by
Erica Sandberg
Credit And Money Management Expert Contributor
Erica Sandberg is a credit and money management expert who began her career at Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS). There, she helped individuals and families overcome their debt issues and developed budgets, then transitioned into the agency’s primary media spokesperson.
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