Australians are turning to drugs and alcohol to manage the symptoms of financial stress according to the latest research.
Details of a survey published by start-up Financial Mindfulness, based on CoreData research, show that almost one-in-three Australians (30.4%) suffer from significant financial stress, leading to anti-social behavior, relationship conflict, sleep loss and symptoms of depression.
Of those suffering financial stress, 35% admitted to using drugs and alcohol to manage negative feelings, 18 times higher than people not under financial stress.
Women were reported to be more likely to be financial stressed than men – 33.4% versus 27.6%.
Dr Nicola Gates, chief scientific adviser for Financial Mindfulness, said significant financial stress was a lot more common than believed.
“Financial stress is an issue that needs to be talked about in order to reduce stigma and shame, and to bring about intervention,” Gates said.
“Financial stress, like other stress, is a significant threat to our mental health and can lead to mental illness.”
Financial Mindfulness was eager to point out that financial stress is not only experience in low-income households, but it felt more broadly. Respondents on salaries of up to $150,000 a year with investments of up to $750,000 were only marginally less financially-stressed than those who earned up to $90,000 with investments of up to $350,000.
Key figures reveal that financially-stressed Australians reported:
- Their physical health was affected nearly six times as much as those not financially stressed (60.8% versus 10.5%)
- Arguing about money with family/partner nearly four times as much (75.8% v 21.4%)
- Feeling at least considerably irritable / having angry outbursts over their money twenty times more (52.2% v 2.6%)
- Having problems sleeping at eight times the rate of those not financially stressed (71.3% v 8.7%)
- Nearly nine out of 10 (88%) avoid social functions reasonably often, four times higher
A BT Financial Group study published in May also found similar levels of financial stress existing within the Australian community, with a third of Australian reported to be living pay cheque- to-pay cheque.
The 2016 BT Australian Financial Health Index revealed that 32% of Australians always or often find themselves relying on pay cheques to sustain them throughout the month. The number grew from 29% in the previous year.
The research also found 30% of Australians are concerned about the amount of debt they have to pay off each month, despite about 70% believing they have ‘complete’ or ‘good’ control over their finances.
Income levels have no significant bearing on attitudes toward debt with the research showing similar levels of concern across all income brackets, according to BTFG head of financial literacy and advocacy Bryan Ashenden.
“No one is immune, we all have worries about our money from time to time, but what can make a difference is to put steps in place, so that we worry less,” Ashenden said.
Ashenden added that encouraging open conversations about money with loved ones is the first step taking control of finances.