Is financial insecurity impacting your mental wellbeing?

Written by Hannah S on 26 August 2021

Over the last year, the NHS has seen an unprecedented influx in patients seeking mental health services, however Mind estimates that 1 in 4 people in Britain were struggling mentally and emotionally prior to the pandemic. Meanwhile, the FCA estimates that 40% of Britons are now struggling with their health due to their finances.

Research indicates that financial insecurity has a significant impact on mental wellbeing, which is completely understandable. How can a person live a happy, care-free life when they’re worried they might lose their house? Or struggling to put food on the table?

Lots of us can often let stress and worry pile up before we seek help. Mental health and being in debt are taboo subjects for many, so even when we know we need to reach out for support, we might not know where to turn.

You may have friends or loved ones who seem different now. Maybe they’ve lost interest in doing things, or sound tired when you talk to them. Depression, anxiety, and financial struggles are often hidden issues, so here are some signs to look out for:

Signs someone is struggling with finances or mental health:

  • They’re withdrawn.

Many people don’t find it easy to talk about either of these issues, which can lead to someone experiencing feelings of guilt and shame in addition to struggling. This makes it even more difficult to confide in friends about how things are really going, which often results in people choosing not to engage at all.

  • They avoid social occasions.

Nobody wants to go to a party they can’t afford to contribute to. Whether this means you literally cannot afford a drink at the bar your friends are meeting at, or if you don’t have the emotional resources to be yourself around big groups of people right now, avoiding social gatherings and events consistently can be a major signal that something’s wrong at home.

  • Their physical appearance has changed.

Have they suddenly lost or gained weight? Are they neglecting self-care and personal hygiene? If they’re struggling with money they may have stopped eating, or started eating cheaper, less healthy food. They might be saving money on water bills or toiletries. Mental health issues can similarly cause someone to either stop eating or overeat. Similarly, if they self-medicate with alcohol, drugs, or tobacco, this can have a marked effect on them physically.

  • They are noticeably agitated or irritable.

Do they seem distracted? Quick to anger? Do little things upset them? Being depressed or anxious about money takes up a lot of energy, energy that then isn’t available to deal with normal, day-to-day struggles. Their sleep might be impacted, they might not be eating, or as previously mentioned, they might be using substances to self-soothe, all of which can lead to sometimes unpredictable mood changes. 

  • They’re behaving differently around money.

Are they mentioning how expensive things are? Do they suggest somewhere different from your usual cafe because “it’s cheaper”? Maybe they actually seem to be spending more than they can afford- always treating everyone to dinner or going on shopping sprees. Splurging can be a coping mechanism, or a sign of denial or desperation. Research shows that people with financial troubles are more likely to seek instant gratification because the future is so uncertain. Similarly, if someone is depressed, they may be trying to distract themselves or fill a void by spending.

This list is in no way comprehensive, and only represents a few of the most prominent signs someone is struggling.

Here are some additional signs more specific to mental health problems:

  • They stop returning your calls or don’t seem interested in seeing anyone.

Similar to withdrawing, a friend or loved one isolating themselves or not responding is a common sign of depression. Sometimes this is because they don’t know how to talk about what they’re going through, sometimes it’s because they’ve lost interest in their life and the lives of others, and sometimes it’s because they’re simply exhausted. Let them know that they’re safe with you, that you’re not judging them, and that you’re available any time to just sit together – they don’t have to talk if they don’t want to.

  • They don’t want to do things they used to love.

Another classic symptom of clinical depression is the loss of enjoyment or interest in hobbies, responsibilities, or life goals and dreams. Sometimes people describe this and things seeming “pointless” or like they feel they themselves are unworthy or letting people down. Pay attention to the way they talk about themselves and their life, and if they seem disengaged it might be time to research support.

Again, these lists are not exhaustive and mental health struggles are as diverse as people are.

For more information, or if you think you or someone you know might need help, please visit these other resources:

If you or someone you know is struggling with debt, our advisers are available from 8am-8pm Monday-Friday and Saturdays from 9am-3pm.

Call 0800 280 2816 or visit payplan.com for support.


Filed under Living in Debt

This article was checked and deemed to be correct as at the above publication date, but please be aware that some things may have changed between then and now. So please don't rely on any of this information as a statement of fact, especially if the article was published some time ago.

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