Mental Health


Money and Mental Health

Financial stress is a major problem for many Canadians in light of the fact that household debt has reached alarming levels. The debt to income ratio has reached 168 percent meaning that for every $1 earned Canadians owe $1.68 in personal loans, credit card balances, and other types of debt. Financial stress is related to low income, excessive borrowing, no retirement savings, and no savings. And it is not surprising that financial stress is a serious problem as people need money for almost everything, from basic necessities such as housing and transportation to leisure and entertainment.

Financial Problems That Canadians Face

A recent survey by the Canadian Payroll Association shows that 44 percent of respondents will be unable to meet their day-to-day expenses if their employer is late paying them by just one week. According to Peter Tzanetakis, president of the association, the main problem is that many Canadians carry too much debt. The survey findings prove this as 34 percent of participants admit that they carry more debt than the last year. What is more, 40 percent of respondents share that they find it difficult to keep up with payments.

How Money Problems Affect Mental Health

The most obvious way in which money problems affect health is by causing excessive stress. Stress is a major risk factor for serious conditions such as strokes, heart attacks, gastrointestinal problems, and anxiety. Some studies show that stressing over money is also linked to back pain and hypertension. Stress is also associated with mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. In fact, studies show that people who have stressful jobs are at an 80 percent higher risk of suffering from depression. Given that 16 percent of Canadian women and 11 percent of men suffer from depression at some point of their lives, money-related stress is a serious issue and a contributing factor. In fact, a paper published in collaboration between the Canadian government and the Public Health Agency of Canada shows that the main causes of depression are addictions, poor self-esteem, work-related problems, illness and death, and financial problems. A survey in the U.S. confirms this. The Northwestern Mutual’s 2018 Planning & Progress Study shows that financial difficulties are a more serious problem for respondents (44 percent) than difficulties at work (18 percent) and difficulties with a personal relationship (25 percent). To top this, financial problems put a strain on marriage and personal relationships.

A survey by the Financial Planning Standards Council in Canada shows similar results. Some 48 percent of respondents admitted that they literally lost sleep over money problems. Young people and women are more likely to stress over money. The survey conducted by the Canadian Payroll Association also shows that carrying excessive debt affects productivity at work. The main reason is the stress that Canadians experience while dealing with debt and making ends meet. Financial discipline is at the core of the problem. Dr. Marie-Helene Pelletier points to the fact that the financial crisis of 2008 proved that stress is associated with anxiety and depression. The use of anti-depressants increased significantly in the midst of the recession.

Dealing with Money Problems

A good strategy to cope with financial stress is to set goals and priorities and to think of ways to cut down on expenses. Listing monthly expenses and income sources can help to this end. It is also a good idea to have an emergency fund to pay urgent and unexpected expenses such as repairs, medications, etc. Obviously, it is important to be realistic about income and expenses and how much can go toward paying down debt. Some people tend to splurge, and it is a good idea to avoid shops and malls and think of an alternative like jogging, cycling, or anything else. It is good for health and saves money at the same time.

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Mental Health Problems Affecting Canadians

Mental health problems affect people of all walks of life, age groups, ethnic backgrounds, and income and educational levels. Some 20 percent of Canadians are affected each year, and more than 40 percent are at risk.

Factors Causing Mental Health Problems

A combination of factors plays a role, including environmental, personality and traits, biological, and genetic. Other factors include imbalanced nutrition, alcohol and substance abuse, brain injury, and certain infections. Workplace and family stress are contributing factors.

Common Disorders

Common mental health problems in Canada include eating disorders, personality and anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, and depression. Other mental health problems are substance dependency and gambling addiction.

Facts and Numbers

Statistics show that 5 percent of Canadians suffer from anxiety disorders, 1 percent develop bipolar disorder, and 8 percent suffer from depression at some point of their lives.

Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder

One percent of Canadians develop schizophrenia, and one of the main problems is that more than 40 percent do not take their medications as prescribed. This is a serious issue because schizophrenia involves a number of symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations, trouble focusing, confused thoughts, apathy, and withdrawal. Bipolar disorder is also a serious condition that affects 1 percent of people, and 1 in 50 Canadians reports experiencing symptoms that are associated with bipolar disorder. Common symptoms include intestinal problems, joint and muscle pain, anxiety, irritability, and feelings of anxiousness. Patients also experience maniac episodes and symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations, anger, racing and confused thoughts, and lack of self-control.

Anxiety and Mood Disorders

А health survey conducted in 2012 shows that anxiety and mood disorders are a major problem, especially for young people in the age group of 15 – 24. The survey reveals that 7 percent of them had a period of depression during the last year compared to 5 percent of Canadians in the 25 – 64 group. Common symptoms of depression include feelings of sadness and disappointment, irritability, frustration, withdrawal, and inability to concentrate. Suicidal thoughts and behaviors are also linked to severe depression and account for close to 25 percent of deaths in the group of 15 - 24. Certain risk factors are associated with depression and suicidal behaviors, including bullying, criticism, conflict, stress, personal problems, and major life events.

Eating Disorders

Between 2 and 3 percent of Canadians develop eating disorders, and estimates of Statistics Canada show that between about 725,000 and 1,088,000 Canadians develop some type of eating disorder. Bulimia nervosa is less common in males (0.1 percent) than females (1.1 percent). Symptoms of bulimia nervosa include eating excessively and vomiting, preoccupation with weight, fasting, and the use of diuretics and laxatives. As part of a community-based study in Ontario, 2 percent of Canadian women reported having some or all symptoms associated with anorexia. The main symptoms of anorexia include preoccupation with weight, isolation, anxiety, and periods of depression. Other symptoms include irregular heartbeat, fatigue, fainting, dehydration, and bowel functioning problems.

Gambling Addiction

Problem gambling is also a serious problem, and statistics reveal that close to 3 percent of Canadians are addicted, which rate is comparable to alcohol abuse and alcoholism. Common symptoms and signs include inability to control gambling urges and habits, lying to family and friends about gambling and finances, excessive borrowing, stealing, and work and family problems.