Last January, Sam* was one of 190 million Americans that made a New Years’ resolution. Her goal? Get in shape and get her finances in order. Sam started strong but by summertime, she found that financial issues were keeping her from reaching the physical results she was striving for. Sleepless nights spent thinking about debt were compounded by stress eating, and Sam avoided visiting the doctor because of the expense. As a result, her physical wellbeing suffered.
Sam’s story is just one example of how financial wellbeing can spill over into an employee’s physical health and impact them in a positive or negative way. In the workplace today, many HR and benefits professionals are looking to address this link.
Here are 5 areas of physical wellbeing that can be impacted by personal finances, plus strategies to drive positive outcomes in your workforce.
A great way to support your team’s health is to provide a trusted financial wellbeing benefit with access to Certified Financial Planner™ professionals. LearnLux is creating a world where having a financial plan is never out of reach for employees at all income and asset levels.
According to a recent poll, money worries are the #1 cause of sleep loss. More than 78% of American adults experience sleepless nights because they worry about everyday expenses, healthcare costs, and saving for retirement. When employees don’t get the rest they need, they are more likely to miss work, become distracted on the job, or experience workplace injury. To improve employee sleep habits, solve for the core of their stress by offering financial guidance and planning from expert professionals.
For many employees, financial stress weighs heavy on their physical bodies. Muscle tension, including back pain, was reported in over half of individuals who carry high amounts of debt. More than 44% report migraines or other headaches, compared to just 15% without debt stress. For employees suffering from money-related tension, consider providing support through a financial wellbeing partner, plus access to low-impact exercise programs like yoga or meditation.
Sufferers of chronic financial stress produce more cortisol, which is a stress hormone that signals more sugar into the bloodstream. This sugar spike can help us run from a dangerous predator but is not helpful for that growing stack of bills or repeated calls from creditors. High levels of cortisol have us craving sweet, fatty foods and prompt our body to store fat.
Eating a healthy diet is essential to each employee’s physical wellbeing. When experiencing acute financial stress, many employees don’t follow healthy eating habits. For employees experiencing financial stress, comfort and convenience foods may be consumed as a coping mechanism. Additionally, nutritious meals may not be accessible or affordable for those facing financial hardship. More than 27% of individuals with high debt stress reported having ulcers or other digestive tract problems, compared to just 8% without. For HR and benefits teams looking to help employees maintain a healthy diet, explore financial wellbeing solutions to support the core causes first.
High blood pressure is the precursor to a wide range of employee health issues, including heart attacks and strokes. A 2013 study reported that adults ages 24 to 32 who had high debt also had higher diastolic blood pressure. Individuals with high financial stress are also more likely to report they’ve had a heart attack or an arrhythmia (6%) than those with low financial stress (3%), according to AP data.
Accessing medical care
Nearly one in five Americans say they considered skipping or have skipped going to the doctor because of the inability to pay medical bills. This inhibits employees from seeking medical help, even when it’s desperately needed. With healthcare costs rising, it’s easy to see how an individual could fall into the cycle of debt, poor health, and then more debt. Encourage employees to focus on their finances, and use open enrollment each year as a “financial checkup.” Choose a financial wellbeing program with access to Certified Financial Planner™ professionals that can make sure each employee is protected for the upcoming year.
Ability to reach health goals
When employees feel financially secure, they can dedicate time, energy, and money towards other objectives. A 2015 survey conducted by TD Bank revealed that 81% of respondents found other goals much easier to achieve when their finances were in order. Think of the employee who dreams of running a marathon someday. The costs of a new pair of running sneakers and entry fees to various 5ks may be small, but they add up. When a person’s financial foundations are solid, they are able to focus on their wellbeing and strive for other achievements.
Employee financial health touches so many attitudes, behaviors, and levels of physical wellbeing. As a result, leading employers are recognizing the holistic health and financial wellbeing connection, and taking action. The result? A healthier, happier, more productive workforce.
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