PhotoPhysical health and financial health are linked in ways that negatively affect people struggling with debt, according to a new study.

A survey conducted by The Harris Poll for LendingClub has found that consumers struggling financially often experience more illness, depression, and social isolation.

Steve Allocca, President of LendingClub, says people are now willing to talk about things that were once kept private, but discussing money appears to be the last taboo.

"This silence compounds the issues and poor financial health negatively impacts other key areas in people's lives, causing many to feel shame or isolation," Allocca said. "We need to remove the stigma and start engaging in conversations more openly on financial health."

In fact, the study found that people are now more likely to talk about intimate relationship issues but appear highly reluctant to discuss their credit card debt. About 60 percent of consumers with credit cards carry some sort of balance, but they think the problem is unique to them because it isn’t discussed publicly.

Medical issues and bankruptcy

Previous research has linked medical issues with financial hardships, in part because healthcare is so expensive. A 2005 Harvard study traced half of 1.4 million personal bankruptcies in 2001 to health issues and resulting medical bills.

Today, the situation doesn't seem quite as dire. Earlier this year, researchers at MIT determined that only 4 percent of personal bankruptcies among non-elderly consumers are caused by health issues, perhaps because more people are now covered by health insurance.

Still, the link between financial and physical health can create a vicious cycle. The Harris survey suggests a close correlation.

Consumers reporting financial struggles are significantly less likely to practice certain physical health habits. Forty percent don't get regular exercise. They're also more likely to have skipped preventive physical health measures.

What's more, the survey found that people in poor financial health are not taking steps to get on the road to recovery. More than half of the consumers in that category say they avoid talking or thinking about the financial problems they face because it "drains them mentally."

Not surprisingly, two-thirds say they don't have a consistent savings plan or don't save money at all.


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