Financial stress taking its toll

The latest research suggests that Australians are turning to alcohol and drugs to manage financial stress. Financial Mindfulness published details of a survey, based on research by CoreData, that show almost one in three Australians suffers significant financial stress, which leads to relationship conflict, sleep loss, anti-social behaviour and symptoms of depression.

Out of those surveyed, 35 per cent admitted to using alcohol and drugs to manage negative feelings, which is 18 times higher than those not under financial stress. Women were more likely to experience financial stress than men – 33.4 per cent versus 27.6 per cent.

Chief scientific adviser for Financial Mindfulness, Dr Nicola Gates, said significant financial stress was more common than believed.

Gates said, ‘Financial stress is an issue that needs to be talked about in order to reduce stigma and shame, and to bring about intervention. Financial stress, like other stress, is a significant threat to our mental health and can lead to mental illness.’

Financial Mindfulness was keen to point out the financial stress is not solely experience by low-income households, but is felt more broadly.

Key figures revealed that Australian feeling financial stress reported:

  • Arguing with their partner/family about money nearly four times as much as those not under financial stress
  • Physical health is affected almost six times as often as those not financially stressed
  • Problems sleeping eight times more often than those not financially stressed
  • Almost nine out of ten avoided social functions
  • Feeling considerably irritable or having angry outbursts over their money almost 20 times more often

A study published in May by BT Financial Group found similar levels of financial stress existed within the Australian community, with a third of Australians living pay day to pay day. 

The 2016 BT Australian Financial Health Index revealed that the number of Australians who relied on pay cheques to sustain them throughout the month grew to 32 per cent from 29 per cent the previous year.

The study also found that 30 per cent of Australians were concerned about the amount of debt they have to pay each month.

It was found that income levels have no significant impact on the attitude towards debt with research showing that the level of concern was similar across all income brackets.