As the saying goes, health is wealth. However, the relationship between physical and financial health is more complicated than a simple proverb. Poor physical health can make it challenging to earn a living, and the reverse is also true.
This kind of catch-22 can quickly descend into a downward spiral, as increasing symptoms make padding your income more problematic. With that in mind, here’s how money influences your mental and physical wellbeing, as well as a few coping strategies.
1. The Cost Of Cutting Corners
Research shows that poverty leads to lower life expectancy and high disability rates. While some pundits blame the poor for their choices, until you live through scarcity, you can’t conceive of the way it affects your decision-making.
You know you should pass on that dollar menu burger, but the salad costs $5 more. Maybe you could prepare a healthier meal at home. However, after racing from one low-paying job to the next on the same day, you’re too exhausted to cook. If you’re down to your last $7, a temporary escape from your troubles in a bottle of wine may supersede your need to eat.
One surefire way to put money in your pocket is to evaluate your assets. If you have jewellery, for example, you can get $1,400 per ounce of gold. Why are you still holding on to your old wedding band five years post-divorce, anyway?
2. You Avoid Seeing The Doctor
Unfortunately, in America, your health insurance is typically tied to your employment. This setup creates a problem if you lose your job. Worse is the fact that many companies no longer offer benefits to their workers, which devastates those under Medicare age.
Three-quarters of Americans aged 50 to 62 work in nontraditional fields, meaning they had no access to employer-sponsored health insurance or retirement plans. If they don’t have a spouse with such perks, they often go without coverage — which means one emergency hospital visit can bankrupt them.
Poor health results when you don’t see a doctor or a dentist regularly. For example, millions of Americans have Type 2 diabetes. Leaving this condition uncontrolled can lead to heart problems, kidney failure and blindness. Skipping routine dental cleanings can lead to periodontal disease, which increases your risk of heart attacks and Alzheimer’s. When it comes to illness, poverty is the gift that pays frightening dividends.
While you can’t force your employer to offer insurance, it is an election year. Put your vote and your voice behind candidates who support guaranteeing health coverage to every American regardless of age or income. Write letters to the editor of your local paper and call your elected representatives to demand reform. After all, they’re your tax dollars — don’t you want a say in how they are spent?
3. You Don’t Get Enough Exercise
No matter how rich or poor you are, there are only 24 hours in a day. If you work a minimum-wage job and you want to afford housing, that means reporting to a second or even a third gig. That doesn’t leave much time for hitting the gym.
OK, you’ll go out and take a walk — that’s free. However, if you live in an impoverished and crime-ridden area, you might risk your life while trying to move your muscles. Staying indoors seems safer for many in such areas, even before COVID-19. Unfortunately, even if you can afford a single purchase on a fitness app, the monthly recurring charge might scare you away.
4. Your Diet Declines In Quality
While conservative pundits like to extol so-called “welfare queens” buying steak and lobster with food stamps, the reality of life for SNAP benefits users is much different.
The average recipient receives only $127 for the entire month, or $1.40 per meal. It’s challenging to find even inexpensive TV dinners at the grocery for that price. As a result, many turn to staples like ramen noodles. While these provide needed calories, they can also leave you with severe nutritional deficiencies.
5. You Develop Mental Health Issues
The endless onslaught of poverty-driven despair can wreak havoc on your mental state. Women living in poverty suffer more PTSD symptoms than do those with a living wage. Depression, anxiety and substance abuse issues skyrocket across gender lines.
Support groups offer one avenue to find help. Narcotics and Alcoholics Anonymous offer free online meetings you can attend even during the shutdown. Some community health clinics provide therapy services on a sliding scale to those who lack insurance.
Improved Finances Equal A Healthier Tomorrow
When you don’t have enough money, you can’t afford to care for yourself the way you should. However, you can break the downward spiral by taking small yet meaningful steps to improve your physical and mental health.
While it’s no guarantee, enhancing your wellbeing often opens the doors to new opportunities.