Health Really Does Equal Wealth

The phrase “your health is your wealth” is one that is often bandied around without people actually understanding the true implications. Studies have shown that poor health and money insecurity are inextricably linked; in fact, they are perpetuated by one another. These studies have also constantly shown that if you're a low-income person the probability is greater that you will be adversely affected by not just the physical effects of financial stress but also the psychological.

Don't follow? Okay, let's say a low-income person was carrying significant debt from a loan at the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Let's also say the repayment was about one-third of their take-home pay. I know that, having lived through two years of the pandemic this week, it may be hard to remember those early days. But try and hark back to when people were being furloughed, their salaries were being cut, or worse, they were flat-out losing their jobs. Now imagine this same low-income person falling into one of these categories. With debt that was already very onerous, and their creditors knocking at their door because they started missing loan payments and could see no way to catch up, imagine what the financial stress would have facilitated: Depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, weight gain, chronic health conditions, maybe even suicide ideation, and so on.

But it doesn't stop there, does it? Psychological and physiological problems from financial stress will turn right around and further beget an inability to envision a way to dig themselves out of their problems. Hence, money problems affect mental health, and compromised mental health affects the ability to come up with a viable plan to make money. It's a vicious cycle.

Financial well-being is a big factor in wellness

At this juncture it is important to point out that money in fact cannot buy happiness. And we can acknowledge those from the school of thinking who believe that health is better than wealth, meaning, you can be happy with just good health even if you don't have money.

Still, in modern society that thinking might just be a little precious. The truth is, in today's day and age, money is the vehicle that drives survival at the most basic level. And in the absence of a methodology for surviving, stress is compounded. Chronic stress over a time results in challenges not just to the mental but also the physical.

And this applies not just to low-income individuals. Whatever tax bracket you occupy, the last two years have taken a huge toll mentally, physically, psychologically, and maybe even spiritually. If you feel as though your money is inexplicably eroding, and you can't afford the lifestyle you had before March 2020, you, too, are prone to chronic stress. Do you find that you are displaying responses like insomnia, headaches, heart palpitations, indigestion or changes to eating patterns, or your coping mechanisms have become unhealthy and you're doing more self-medicating than ever before? Then it could be that your well-being has been compromised.

But, the good news is, you are not alone.

How money impacts the mind

In 2020, a Stress in America report — which is that country's annual survey that takes the temperature of how much stress its citizens are experiencing — found that 64 per cent of adults admitted to money being a significant stressor, with half indicating that they had experienced negative financial effects as a result of COVID.

What many people haven't even realised yet, even as they look forward to shedding the confinements of the past two years, and heading into a glittering post-pandemic world where they will return to where they had left off, is that there's no real normalcy there. There are tensions between Russia and Ukraine and the rest of the world. Consequently, the markets are displaying volatility, and God knows what the price of oil could climb to, and with that, increases in the cost of living right here in Jamaica, if we are to go by the rationale of the butterfly effect, which basically posits that if a butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazonian jungle it can change weather half a world away.

We pause to acknowledge International Women's Day this week, thinking especially of Jamaican women, already under severe stress, as indicated in a Survey of Living Conditions a decade ago, as heads of households (46.4 per cent) with children, and who are bearing even more untold stresses on the brink of a post-pandemic world.

Which is why, with the stress brought on not only from the novel coronavirus but also the resulting runaway inflation, it is key for women to prioritise personal wellness and mental health, which is part of the arsenal needed to get back on the path to financial well-being.

Lamar Harris, vice-president, wealth management, NCB Capital Markets

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