Debt has the power to take over your entire life — from what you buy to where you live.
But when debt is paid off, the benefits go well beyond the bank. A host of psychological perks can occur, from restored self-esteem to financial empowerment.
According to a 2018 Planning & Progress Study by Northwestern Mutual, 69 percent of American workers were stressed over their finances and 53 percent cited debt reduction as a top financial priority in 2018.
Whether you’re nearing the finish line or are miles away, consider the ways debt payment can help return balance to your mind and body.
Less stress, improved health
It’s no surprise that owing a large amount of money causes psychological strain, but did you know that it’s ranked as one of the most stress-inducing life events?
According to the Society of Occupational Medicine’s 2009 Life Events Inventory, which ranks the psychosocial stress of 100 life events, “getting into debt beyond means of repayment” received a score of 82/100 for men and 86/100 for women.
In a previous interview with Bankrate, conducted by D. Lee, Carole Stovall, a psychologist and executive adviser in Washington, D.C., emphasized that stress takes quite a toll on your body.
“Stress is one of the drivers for health conditions related to cardiovascular disease, allergies, diabetes (and) gastrointestinal disorders,” said Stovall.
That’s why paying off debt can result in physical healing. “When people pay off debt, they’re going to say ‘My stomach feels better, my heart feels better,’” said Stovall.
Eliminating debt is more than just a numbers game — it’s an act of breaking free from difficult past experiences.
Debt associated with rough events — such as divorce or a reckless phase in life — is painful to carry around. So when you finally cut that debt from your life, you’ll likely experience emotional liberation.
In a recent interview with Dr. Gail Saltz, associate professor of psychiatry at the NY Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell School of Medicine, she discusses the toll financial stress takes on mental and physical health.
“Ongoing financial stress translates to chronic stress which can lead to depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, back pain, stomach ulcers, etc.,” says Dr. Saltz. “The point is high stress causes cortisol release, which impacts the health of all organs including the brain.”
According to Dr. Saltz, paying off your debt removes the fear and stress associated with it.
“While money does not make one exponentially happier after a baseline amount of reasonable well living, below that and certainly debt does detract from happiness… the closer you get to the reasonable living number the more likely you are to feel better,” says Dr. Saltz.