Career Woman

Can money make you sick? How financial instability affects health


They say money can’t buy happiness, but can it buy health – or even make you sick? When money is the cause of stress and worry it can impact your health and relationships. As a financial adviser, I have seen relationships crumble under the strain of financial problems. I’ve also seen the mental and physical health of my clients suffer due to financial strain.

The effect of stress on health is a well-researched area. We know stress can cause a multitude of health problems including diminished immunity, gastrointestinal problems and mental health issues.

Getting your finances on track, and especially your finances related to your healthcare, can be the security you need to stress a bit less.

While the public health system is broad, there can still be costs involved and it’s important to know what bills you may have coming to you and how to budget for them.Here are a few tips to reduce the impact of money matters on your health.

  1. Invest in private health insurance

If you don’t already have private health insurance, you would have noticed the hefty bill at tax time – also known as the Medicare levy surcharge. Basic health cover doesn’t have to break the bank and can benefit you. I have heard it so many times, “I have health insurance but I never use it.”

Sometimes there is a gap to pay, but using your insurance benefits can actually help you feel better. Rebates on physio, chiro or massage are good incentives to make some time for your body. Some insurance providers are proactively trying to keep their members fit, offering free or discounted fitness classes and other activities. And if there are some serious health issues on the radar, health insurance may give you the opportunity to get treatment a bit faster through the private system.

  1. Go to a bulk-billing GP

Regular appointments at your GP will ensure you stay on top of health issues and detect any problems earlier. Some GPs advertise as bulk-billing. If you already have a GP, ask if they can bulk-bill you. It could save you a significant amount.

  1. Buy generic brand medications and shop around for the best price

The price of some medications is regulated by the government, but prices can still vary between pharmacies. Call around to check. Your pharmacist will often ask you if you are happy to substitute for a generic brand, doing this can save you money too.

  1. Make use of employer-funded health services

Many employers provide subsidised or free access to wellness services such as counselling, optometry, yoga classes or gym access. If your company has a social club, this can also be a fun way to make connections and reduce stress. Having relationships is an important part of maintaining good mental health.

  1. Have an emergency fund

Unexpected medical, or other, emergencies can cause significant financial strain, leading to further pressure on your health. An emergency fund needs to be a separate bank account, without key card access, that is your own. Term deposits or high interest saver accounts are good for this.

  1. Get income protection insurance

If you need to take time out to recover from a health issue, you may not be able to cover this with your savings or sick leave. Income protection insurance will give you an extra buffer between financial security and strain. And premiums are tax deductible.

  1. Quit smoking

Not only do cigarettes cost between $28 and $33 a pack, smoking literally makes you sick. Reduce your costs all round by quitting or better yet – don’t take it up in the first place.

  1. Look after yourself

Exercising and eating a balanced diet doesn’t have to be complicated. It can simply mean walking a bit each day and varying your diet to include a balance of foods. When you’re stressed it’s tough to keep these things on track, but it’s worth the extra effort.

As advisers we see the consequences that a lack of financial security can have. The strain on relationships and families is one, but the way financial stress affects health is tangible and significant. Sometimes financial strain can take us by surprise but by taking these steps to straighten out your healthcare and back-up plans, you can protect yourself from breaking.

About Helen Baker'

Helen Baker is a licenced Australian financial adviser and author of two books: On Your Own Two Feet – Steady Steps to Women’s Financial Independence and On Your Own Two Feet Divorce – Your Survive and Thrive Financial Guide. Helen is among the 1% of financial planners who holds a master’s degree in the field. Find out more at | Note this is general advice only and you should seek advice specific to your circumstances.

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