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Employers have realized that something is wrong.  As health insurance costs continue to spike, there is an effort to provide other attractive benefits that might make current and prospective employees happy.  Lots of those benefits—flexible work or remote work options, increased paid family leave, and add-ons like identity theft protection, gym memberships, or legal aids—are growing popularity and workers seem to like them.  The problem is that none of them address the real problem.

The number one reasons Americans are stressed out is money.[1]  This isn’t new, and it isn’t dependent on the economy.  Since the beginning of their survey in 2007, the American Psychological Association reports that money and finances have remained the top stressor.  Another survey finds that money is the dominant stressor for 44% of Americans—nearly doubling the next answer (personal relationships at 25%) and far more problematic than work (just 18%).[2]

And yes, these problems are coming to work.  72% of workers admitted to worrying about their finances on the job and one in three are distracted more than once a week.[3]  Unsurprisingly, people with greater financial stress have more symptoms of depression and anxiety, and data shows that financial stress is triggering physical symptoms like anxiety and sleeplessness for roughly 60% of workers.[4]

There are even more direct health impacts.  Americans who report poor financial health engage in some costly habits: 59% do not get routine check-ups and 60% do not get regular exercise.  38% will skip preventative health measures because they’re afraid of cost.  The survey concludes, “Bad wealth begets bad health.”[5]  A 2017 study shows that financial stress is related to getting more migraines.[6]  Ulcers and digestive issues are far more common.[7]  Perhaps most alarming, high blood pressure and heart attacks are twice as frequent is people with high financial stress compared to those with low financial stress.[8]  And 68% of women and 56% of men say they lose sleep at least occasionally because they’re worried about money.[9]

Besides being physically threatening, this is expensive.  Patients with hypertension cost $9,089 per year in health care expenditures—a staggering $131 billion per year in national spending.  That’s roughly 2.5 more inpatient costs, about twice the outpatient cost, and roughly triple the prescription medication cost each year.  Those without hypertension?  Their mean annual expenditure is just $4,172.[10]

So while employers scramble to offer add-ons and more modern version of family leave and work options, employees continue to suffer from the root cause of many of their problems: financial stress.


[1] American Psychological Association, Stress in America: Paying With Our Health, https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2015/02/money-stress

[2] Northwestern Mutual, Planning & Progress Study 2018, https://news.northwesternmutual.com/planning-and-progress-2018

[3] John Hancock, Financial Wellness, http://jhrps.com/Wellness

[4] Ibid

[5] LendingClub, Is your financial health affecting your quality of life?, https://www.lendingclub.com/research/financial-health?utm_medium=press_release&utm_source=pr_newswire&utm_campaign=pl_financial_health_2018_q4

[6] American Association for the Advancement of Science, Financial stress is associated with migraine, if you have specific circadian gene variants, https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-09/econ-fsi083117.php

[7] Associated Press, Debt & Stress

[8] Matt Hoffman, Hypertension Costs Patients Additional $2,000 Annually, Estimated $131B Nationally, MD Magazine, https://www.mdmag.com/medical-news/hypertension-costs-patients-additional-2000-annually-estimated-131b-nationally

[9] Sienna Kossman, Poll: Women lose more sleep over money worries than men, CreditCards.com https://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/poll-women-more-sleepless-nights.php

[10] Hoffman, Hypertension Costs Patients Additional $2,000 Annually, Estimated $131B Nationally