We all know that being in debt isn’t fun. And most of us understand that prolonged financial problems can put great stress on us and our families. But what, specifically, does that stress DO to us psychologically and physiologically? It’s a tough question without easy answers.

One long-term study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) explored research literature on what financial difficulties can do to our health. In short, its findings suggested that high debt can take a toll on our mental and physical wellbeing.

It seems to be mental and physical

The NIH literature review examined numerous studies related to debt and key mental health issues (perceived stress and symptoms of depression) and went further into essentials of physical wellness: overall health (by self-report) and the two well-known components of blood pressure (systolic and diastolic). In some studies, metrics like debt-to-asset ratios were utilized to gain understanding of how higher levels of debt (and the accompanying stressors) may harm us. (The review is worth a read — or at least a glance.)

Our take-aways? 1) Household debt can be a predictor of important health outcomes. 2) We need to learn more about the effects of debt. 3) Like with other potentially unhealthy things, we should be cautious about the dangers of serious debt.

Psychological factors have been studied much more than the physical health factors, so much is still unknown about the latter. What many of us know from experience is that problem debt makes us unhappy and tired. 

Is bankruptcy a viable option for me?

We say it all the time because it’s true: Everyone’s debt situation is different. A bankruptcy filing may or may not be a good idea for you. If you have questions, talk to a professional.