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Financial stress linked to chronic pain later in life

Study findings suggest that financial insecurity can lead to future health problems

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Photo (c) Kemal Yildirim - Getty Images
Are finances to blame for consumers’ chronic pain in later life? The results from a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Georgia indicate that the answer may be yes. 

According to their findings, those who are struggling financially in mid-life are likely to be at an increased risk of chronic pain as they age. 

“Physical pain is considered an illness on its own with three major components: biological, psychological, and social,” explained researcher Kandauda A.S. Wickrama. “In older adults, it co-occurs with other health problems like limited physical functioning, loneliness, and cardiovascular disease.” 

How financial stress can translate into physical pain

To better understand how consumers’ finances can impact them physically, the researchers analyzed roughly three decades’ worth of data from the Iowa Youth and Family Project. The study focused on over 500 families and tracked their financial security and health outcomes over nearly 30 years. 

The researchers found that a clear relationship emerged between those who struggled financially and those who experienced higher levels of pain later in life. They believe this stems from a lack of control over financial struggles, which then leads to physiological responses. The team found that stress from finances can lead to stress in other areas of life, and that compounding stress can make people more susceptible to several physical ailments

They also learned that the inverse relationship existed: having higher levels of pain in later life was associated with higher health care costs, which leads to a greater financial burden. Moving forward, the researchers hope that work is done to better educate and prepare consumers to manage their finances in early adulthood.

“In their later years, many complain about memory loss, bodily pain, and lack of social connections,” Wickrama said. “Nearly two-thirds of adults complain of some type of bodily pain, and nearly that many complain of loneliness. That percentage is going up, and the health cost for that is going up. That is a public health concern.” 

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