How a financial shock can damage your health

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Credit Crunch

  • A terrible thing happened to my Dad in 1990…
  • How money worries worries can damage your health
  • Why GPs and other medical experts should know about your life story before they diagnose

It was one of the worst memories from my otherwise happy youth.

I was around 19 years old and my father lost his job as a personnel manager at a glue factory.

Months and months passed…

Reams and reams of printer paper on application letters…

And nothing.

My mother was a primary school teacher – a noble profession but not famed for its high pay. With redundancy money dwindling they had to put the house on the market.

After years working hard and toeing the line, they now faced uncertainty.

Suddenly my dad went from ‘rock of stability’, who could do no wrong, to a suddenly thin, drawn, man.

He looked ill. Really ill.

Worse still, there had been a property crash – this was 1990 – which meant they sold our home less than they’ve bought a few years earlier.

After what seemed an age, he got a new job and they got back on track financially, though he spent a year living in a bedsit in London and only coming back at weekends.

I’m telling you this because it’s what came to mind when I read new research just published last Tuesday.

How financial crisis can raise your death risk by 50%

Researchers at the University of Michigan have found that you have a 50% higher risk of premature death if you experience a shocking financial loss in middle age or older age.

One of the study’s authors, Lindsay Pool said: “We found losing your life-savings has a profound effect on person’s long-term health.”

She added: “The most surprising finding was that having wealth and losing it is almost as bad for your life expectancy as never having wealth.”

And another study author stated that this was “New evidence for a potentially important social determinant of health that so far has not been recognised: sudden loss of wealth in late middle or older age”.

From my own experience this struck a chord, because I could SEE my Dad’s health deteriorating in the aftermath of the shocking event.

This financial shock is something many people have experienced after the banking crash of 2008 and the ensuing credit crunch.

And no matter what the economic climate, this kind of shock can happen many people when they lose jobs, they get divorced, they become ill, they have to sell their house to pay for care, or they get into debt they cannot possibly pay off.

It’s stories like this that have driven The People’s Doctor to look at issues of mental wellbeing, happiness and lifestyle when it comes to long-term health.

Here are a few examples you should check out.

Why holding hands reduces pain. Is our increasing lack of physical touch becoming a national health problem?

This lifestyle problem is as bad as smoking. Research reveals that loneliness is a surprising cause of high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes and inflammation

The health problem ONE in FOUR of us will get – and yet too many ignore it. According to statistics one in four of us in UK will suffer from a mental health problem in our lives, anything from stress and anxiety to depression and psychotic episodes.

This is the weirdest pain relief remedy. How watching a sad, emotional film can release your body’s natural pain killers

And these are just a few examples from the website.

There are so many lifestyle factors that contribute to your sense of pain, your physical strength and your ability to ward off disease, I don’t understand why these issues are rarely discussed on the GPs office.

Why GPs and other medical experts should know about your life story before they diagnose.

In the health media, there is an obsessive focus on avoiding certain foods, or dieting in a specific way, that we forget that health is linked to your outlook, your sense of wellbeing, your social life, your pride, fulfilment and happiness.

It’s a problem that’s almost impossible to come up with solutions for – as not even the most talented GP, naturopath or therapist can solve our financial woes.

But Lindsay Pool from the Michigan study made this point…

“Clinicians need to have an awareness of their patients’ financial circumstances. It’s something they need to ask about to understand if their patients may be at an increased health risk.”

And this ties in with a very familiar theme we cover in this newsletter…

• How much do we really get listened to by our GPs?

• Why are issues like our social life, work-life, financial life, mental health and romantic life often seen as irrelevant?

• How many of our problems with pain, immobility, fatigue, and low immunity could be related to these wider lifestyle issues?

• Why does everything have to come down to a specific medical diagnosis that requires a physical ‘fix’ such as a pill or operation? Or if there is no diagnosis, or no fix, why are we often left to go and deal with it ourselves?

I don’t know the answers, but I do read a lot of research and every year more of these kinds of questions are being raised… and by scientists as much as ‘alternative health’ practitioners.

Quite frankly, it’s no wonder that people in pain turn to more holistic, leftfield therapies. At least they get listened to.

Maybe things will change, but with an overburdened NHS and so many cuts happening, it looks increasingly like we have to look to ourselves.

Which is why it’s important that you talk to friends and family when you experience shocking life events. It’s vital you tell your GP if there are pressing problems that might contribute to your health problems.

Until next time.

Stay healthy!

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