Link between Financial Stress and Ageing


New research and studies have found that stress especially if it is due to financial reasons – affects health, both physically and mentally. As we all know stress causes pre-mature ageing – there is a strong connection found between Financial stress and Aging. Scientific studies proclaim ‘stressing over money causes you to look a decade older’. As per a recent study in the European Journal of Aging, individuals who spend at least 4 years going through financial crisis showed signs of faster aging as compared to those who were financially stable.  

Financial Stress and Aging 

I. General Stress and Financial Stress – Impact of Stress on Aging

Stress affects differently – when it is Financial in nature. When there is General Stress like stress at home or work – it makes the person ‘feel’ the stress more than ‘look’ stressed. However, people with Financial Stress have a noticeable change in the way they start looking older.

Assistant professor Dr. Stefan Agrigoroaei, in the Psychological Sciences Research Institute Belgium, compared General Stress and Financial StressHe explains that general stress at work or home relates to how the person feels and not how he/she look to themselves or others. Whereas financial stress didn’t affect how old the individual felt or how old they looked, but others noticed the ageing change. Moreover, individuals with lower financial stress looked 3 years younger than their own age to others.  

Financial stress could be due to various factors like untreated depression, anxiety, addictions, job loss, relationship disputes. It leads to a dis-balance within your body and mind. This, in fact, speeds up the ageing process by shortening the length of each DNA strand. Thus, financial stress has a negative reaction on your brain at a cellular level.    

Moreover, emotional stress due to financial issues causes loneliness, depression and anxiety. It cuts short telomeres in length and causes the cells to age faster and die younger. (Telomeres are caps that are at the end of each strand of DNA which protects our chromosomes). As per a  Finnish study conducted in November 2013 men who were unemployed for more than 2-3 years had shorter telomeres compared to those who had a job. 

Stress hormones called cortisol, when they come in contact with other hormones, cause physiological changes. Stress often makes us indulge in unwise dietary decisions. Moreover, stress also causes the skin to break out in acne, hair loss or early hair greying. This changes our appearance drastically and makes us look older than our age.

III. How Financial Stress makes one Succumb to Addictions 

When under any kind of stress, we resort to reward ourselves with things that give us instant gratification. It could be addictions, like alcohol, gambling, smoking, drugs, over-eating. It is basically, indulging in something that gives us instant gratification. Thus, financial stress ages us not just psychologically but also biologically. 

Financial stress can also cause conflicts and disputes among partners, family and friends. This could be a way of relieving stress for some but these lead to further financial issues. Not only that, but stress also triggers suicides. It is alarming to know – about 16% of people in the United States have committed suicide due to financial stress. American Psychological Association found that 72% of Americans stress about money occasionally and 22% feel extremely stressed about their finances. 

IV. How Financial Stress triggers Rapid Ageing of Skin and Age Spots

What’s the connection between Financial Stress and Skin Ageing?

Well, the answer is:

Your Brain and Skin are constantly in conversation with each other!

There are traces of intricate connect between stress and skin aging since ancient times. Modern clinical studies have linked psychological stress to trigger multiple skin diseases. There have been astounding discoveries in the area of “Brain-Skin Connection”. The findings are based on skin neurobiology, skin inflammation, immunology, psychology, and endocrinology.

Mental, physical and emotional stress arises when the individuals feel that the stress is more than what he can adapt to. In order to adapt to stress, the brain releases stress hormones. Hormones essentially are a trigger to a huge amount of behavior and physiological responses and changes.

“In recent years, emerging research has demonstrated that skin is not only a target of psychological stress signaling modulation, it also actively participates in the stress response by a local HPA axis, peripheral nerve endings, and local skin cells including keratinocytes, mast cells, and immune cells.” There is a mechanism where the brain and skin crosstalk and give feedback to each other. ” Neurogenic inflammatory pathways and Pro-inflammatory cytokines play a vital role in transferring such responses.” Read the full research on how the “brain-skin connection” actually works. How stress negatively affects skin functions and diseases and how chronic stress has a detrimental effect on the aging of the skin.

Dr Margie Lachman, in her study along with other researchers in Belgium and New England (1994-1995) rated the levels of the financial stress of over 200 people with their images captured in the same year. In the years 2004-2005 again, images were taken and shown to different groups of people. The objective was to guess the ages of the people in the head-shots. As a result, reviewers believed that those under more financial stress had aged rapidly. However, this was not the case for the stress-free people whose head-shots were taken.

V. Monetary issues are Subjective Indicators to Aging process

Have you ever wondered why some people look much younger even when they are in their 80s as compared to others in their 60s? Well, here is your answer. Subjective indicator of age makes us understand that the ageing process is not just due to the chronological age.

As per research conducted by Stefan Agrigoroaei, Angela Lee-Attardo and Margie E. Lachman – studied if financial stress is responsible for subjective age as rated by self and others. 228 adults aged 22-75 years from Boston were examined. Adults told how they felt and thought they looked old. Moreover, observers gauged the volunteer’s age on the basis of looking at their photographs from two time-spans of 10 years gap approximately. Individuals suffering from financial stress looked considerably older than their real age. Thus, the researchers “considered the results on accelerated aging of appearance with regard to their implications for interpersonal interactions and in relation to health.

Poverty and ageing are two factors that contribute to deteriorating health and well-being. Not having any investment or unstable employment makes individuals stress over everything that they cannot possess.

Professor Rikke Lund, Social Medicine, Denmark studied 5, 575 middle-aged adults with a “relatively low income” (60% less income than the national average across 22 years, 1987 to 2008). Results showed, 18 % suffered financial hardships for 4 years or even more. Their analysis was based on physical functions and cognitive skills by doing tests like grip strength, chair rise, balance, and jump.

The ones who experienced long periods of relative poverty performed worse and got impacted by ageing.

People who faced financial worries later in life like – losing their job or unwise investments were majorly impacted.  However, those with financial issues at an earlier age were not affected as much.It brings to light – how damaging financial stress is to the health of both body and mind.

27% of Canadians workers claim to have high to extreme stress on a daily basis.  12 % out of 62% of workers (who say work is their main source of stress) report Finances as one of their main source of stress. 

As per an Ipsos poll conducted in May – Canadians are facing major financial issues“73 per cent of Canadians are currently in debt and those who are 35 to 54 have “higher levels” of debt to pay off. 23 % of Canadians say they’ll never be debt-free. They’re concerned about not being able to pay their bills and rising interest rates; some even say they need to seek out professional help.”

Bottom Line

So what are we going to do about it? Our brains know when we are feeling stressed. In case you are not able to read the signs you can use smartphone devices to send us alerts of any potential dangers. By becoming knowledgeable about the long-term outcome of Financial Stress – we can start tackling it at an early stage and find solutions to lessen its impact on us.

There are innumerable ways to de-stressing. Some of you may like to try mindfulness and meditation, however, others may find going to a psychologist more suitable. As long as you find what is suitable for you – to stop the early ageing process. Trust me, it will be worth it.

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