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Financial Stress in Old Age

The causes and effects of financial stress for older adults

In America today, you will find stress in all ages and all groups. According to the American Psychological Association, the most stressed group of all are 18 to 33 year olds, while 51% of women compared to 32% of men lay awake at night because of stress. However, while senior citizens, those over 55 and especially older, do not top the polls for stress overall or even financial stress (that goes to parents in their 30s and 40s), their stress can be acutely worse due to two major reasons. First, their health is often worse which can create a vicious cycle, and second, they have less financial resources with which to fix the situation. This article considers financial stress for older adults.

Financial stress is most serious for older adults
There are many causes of financial stress in the old age, which can have serious health consequences, causing even more financial burden.

What are the Causes of Financial Stress in Old Age

According to surveys, approximately 31% of those over 50 suffer from financial stress, though this declines to 19% for those over 70 who are covered by medicare. Seniors face a unique combination of pressures from reduced income, healthcare, and fewer financial options to help them out of a problem. There are a wide number of causes of financial stress from poor financial management to major life events.

The biggest causes are:

  • Job Loss/Reduction – 51%
  • Healthcare – 29.5%
  • Other – 21.6%
  • Unpaid Taxes – 12.7%
  • Divorce/separation – 8.2%
  • Bankruptcy – 6.7%
  • Foreclosure notices – 5.7%

Many of these can be interconnected or consequences of one of the other causes. As mentioned above, healthcare costs which cause financial stress in an individual can lead to further health issues incurring additional costs.

How Financial Stress will Affect the Body

For those over 50, the body is often less able to take stress than for those who are younger. This means that severe financial stress can lead to weight gain, diabetes, weakened immune systems, hypertension - plus headaches and chest pains, greater chances of chronic diseases, and memory loss. Financial stress also affects the mind and makes someone less able to think clearly. From a neurological point of view, stress can cause confusion, anxiety, and depression. These can all lead to poor decision making which compounds the problem.

Exercise is a good coping mechanism for stress
It won't take your worries away completely, but walking is a good way to deal with your stress,
to clear your head, get some fresh air and exercise, and lift your mood and immunity.

Put Yourself in the Best Position to Cope

It is therefore vital for anyone financially stressed to think with a clear head. The question is how to achieve that. Ultimately, the stress will not be relieved until the financial pressures are off. This is a statement of fact in the situation. Prior to that, you can begin to clear the mind through exercise, meditation, and a good diet. In addition to this, finding a good community of people in similar situations or who have been through it before, will support you in your endeavors both emotionally and with practical advice. Furthermore, consider brain exercises. It might sound odd, but working on brain boosting games and activities will sharpen you for dealing with the financial complexities of your situation.

Resources Consulted:

Anderson, Norman B., Belar, Cynthia D., et al., 2015, Stress in America: Paying with Our Health (PDF), American Psychological Association

Huffington Post, 2013, Stress and Ageing: 5 Ways Stress Affects Post-50s (And How to Create a Less Stressful Lifestyle), Huffingtonpost.com

Patel, Minal R., Kruger, Daniel J. et al, 2016, Effect of Financial Stress and Positive Financial Behaviors on Cost-Related Nonadherence to Health Regimens Among Adults in a Community-based Setting, CDC.gov

Reverse Mortgage Alert, 2016, Financial Stress Coping Guide for Seniors, reversemortgagealert.org

Saisan, Joanna., Smith, Melinda, et al, Staying Healthy as You Age, Helpguide.org

Schwartz, Allan, 2013, Stress and the Older Adult, MentalHelp.net

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