Science Proves Link Between Financial Hardship and Physical Pain

Why It Matters:

  • Research indicates there is a link between economic insecurity and physical pain.
  • People who have economic hardship experience almost double the amount of pain than those who don’t.
  • Feeling in control, and preventing yourself from feeling financial worry, can lessen physical pain levels.

Kaitlyn Schlicht tkc.profilePicture Written by: Kaitlyn Schlicht | Transamerica
Aug. 31, 2017

6 Min readClock Icon

We all know what it feels like to have a broken heart, and how that kind of emotional pain can feel like a stomach punch. But can financial hardship also physically hurt?

The last decade has seen a rise in economic insecurity and complaints of physical pain, which led researchers to wonder if the two are linked. It turns out they are, according to the scientific findings published in, Economic Insecurity Increases Pain, from a study conducted by the Association for Psychological Science (APS).

Scientific results

The study tested the relationship between these variables:

  • Unemployment level and pain killer consumption.
  • Unemployment status and physical pain.
  • Living in a state with high unemployment and physical pain.
  • Economic insecurity and physical pain.
  • Lack of control and physical pain.
  • Economic insecurity and pain tolerance.

The APS found a positive relationship in every case. “In five studies, we found that economic insecurity produced physical pain and reduced pain tolerance. In a sixth study … economic insecurity predicted consumption of over-the-counter painkillers,” they reported.

The study also led to these surprising statistics:

  • Households spend an estimated 20% more on painkillers when both adults are unemployed, versus households with one or two adults working.
  • People who endure financial struggles experience almost double the amount of pain than those who don’t.

The APA’s findings regarding the causal link between financial worry and physical pain align with Transamerica’s philosophy that wealth and health go hand in hand. So what can you do now to potentially improve or protect your wealth and health?

Set yourself up for success

Let these scientific findings motivate you to plan your financial future and hopefully avoid economic hardship and physical pain. Consider these five steps for setting yourself up for success.

1.  Maintain control of your budget .

The study found that when people don’t feel they have financial control, they experience more pain. You can avoid this cause and effect relationship by tracking your expenses and checking your progress toward your financial goals. Schedule a “coffee date” in your calendar, and set aside a few hours to see where your money goes each month.

Another way to feel more in control is to think of your monthly budget in terms of where you can spend your money, not where you can’t. Changing your attitude about budgeting and staying organized can go a long way.

2.  Increase your earnings .

Perhaps you simply don’t feel financially secure because you need to earn more money. Channel that frustration into strategies that can help increase the number of income opportunities available.

Creating multiple streams of income isn’t just a strategy for those tight on money; it’s also one of the top habits of self-made millionaires. This can be done through investments, career advancements, or, if time allows, by working a side hustle into your working life.

To begin on the investment route, consider meeting with a financial professional to discuss strategies that can work with your budget. Another avenue of boosting your income is to start thinking about ways to advance your career in your workplace. If there isn’t room for advancement, consider that as a jumping off point for charting a new course where your full potential (and higher earnings) can be realized. And if you need to create a more immediate stream of side income, offers 99 side hustle jobs to consider.

3. Save for a rainy day.

Perhaps you feel unstable with your job, health, or personal life, and that’s causing economic uncertainty. Consider setting up an emergency fund to keep your mind and pain levels in check. Start small, and build up your savings over time. Better yet, set up a direct deposit from your paycheck into your savings account. Contribute a fixed amount every pay period and get the money out of your spendable checking account right from the get go. Give yourself a time limit or a dollar amount to save towards, and keep your eyes on the prize of building a cushion of savings you can feel good about.

4. Cut bad habits and unnecessary spending.

Everyone has an unnecessary indulgence or two they could live without. From $4 coffees to late-night online shopping sessions, your guilty pleasures may be causing more pain than they’re worth. To help get a grip on your spending habits, track where your disposable income is going in a week. Once you can see where your money is going, you can begin to make a plan that allows for saving and rewarding—but manageable—spending.

Ready to get started? Check out our post on how to get in better financial shape.

5. Expand your financial knowledge.

Earl Nightingale once said, “Whenever we’re afraid, it’s because we don’t know enough.” To relieve the feeling of financial fear, start a new habit of gaining knowledge. To boost your financial IQ, check in daily with websites, podcasts, or books that cover the areas of economics that you feel shaky on.

Better yet, join a community that encourages good financial health! Get started by joining Transamerica’s Wealth Meet Health Community to ask questions and read through peer insight. You can also check back right here on Transamerica’s Knowledge Place for a variety of articles covering a spectrum of easy-to-understand financial topics. We suggest starting with a few of our favorites:

Things to Consider:

  • Understand the link between economic hardship and physical pain so you can plan for ways to avoid it.
  • Have control of your budget and create job security for yourself to potentially decrease your pain levels.
  • Stay tuned to Transamerica’s Knowledge Place to expand your financial literacy and gain valuable budgeting resources.




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