Mind, body and wallet: the connection between physical and financial health

A financial wellness program can help improve productivity and create a healthier workforce.

Young millennial woman stretches and is enjoying the sunrise from above a grass hill.

At some point, everyone will experience stress. However, not all stress is created equal — and financial stress accounts for more than all other workplace stressors combined. In fact, financial stress is the leading stressor in the workplace—more than all of the others combined. And 32% of the respondents who report financial stress indicate their health has been impacted as a direct result.1

Some may experience headaches, fatigue, sleeplessness, and digestive problems. Others who are under chronic stress can have weakened immune systems, which may make them more prone to viral infections, such as the common cold, flu and even COVID-19 according to research conducted at Rice University.2 Simply put, financial stress may be helping to make your workforce sick, which ultimately impacts your bottom line.

Fortunately, a tailored approach to financial wellness may be the prescription you and your employees need. Let’s take a closer look at the relationship between your employees’ financial and physical health as well as how you can improve them both.

How does financial stress affect your employees’ health?

We've all heard about the mind-body connection, which makes sense of why financial stress and physical health go hand in hand. That said, here are a few examples of how this can play out:

  • Increased blood pressure and glucose levels. A 2018 study by researchers at UCLA, Duke University and Drexel University found significant increases in blood pressure and blood glucose levels in U.S. adults during the 2008–2010 recession—a time when financial stress levels were high.3
  • Loss of sleep. Nearly half (48%) of U.S. adults report losing sleep over money troubles, according to a BankRate.com survey.4 The top reasons given include not saving enough for retirement, healthcare bills, and the ability to pay a mortgage. And most health experts agree that a consistent lack of sleep can lead to an array of health problems.
  • Physical health neglect. Concern over the ability to pay medical bills can also result in people avoiding much-needed preventative care and treatment. An APA study found that 1 in 5 Americans say they have either considered skipping (9%) or skipped (12%) going to a doctor when they needed health care because of financial concerns.5

Employers share the bill for employee financial stress costs

Employee stress doesn't just impact the employee: employers also foot a portion of the bill. For example, 43% of employees report financial matters have been a distraction at work while 21% admit financial concerns impact their productivity.1 Whether it’s calling a student loan servicer during work hours for payment arrangements or time spent preparing a budget, 46% of employees report spending three or more hours at work each week dealing with issues related to their finances.1 Another survey by SalaryFinance found that those with money stress are:

  • 5.8 times more likely not to finish daily tasks on time,
  • 4.9 times more likely to experience diminished work quality,
  • 4.3 times more likely to have troubled relationships at work and
  • 2.2 times more likely to be looking for a new job.6

A financially stressed, physically unhealthy workforce can result in increased absenteeism, reduced productivity, and low engagement. To avoid the costs of employee financial stress, forward-thinking employers are investing in holistic financial wellness programs. These programs look to remedy the source of the stress while delivering exceptional ROI on employer benefit spend. In fact, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says, on average, employers can expect a return of $3 for every $1 spent on financial wellness programs.7

What can employers do to help their company and employees deal with financial stress?

A robust financial wellness program can help alleviate financial stress and, in turn, reduce related physical symptoms. However, the one-size-fits-all approach to employee financial wellness often fails to meet the mark. At Voya, we take a tailored approach to helping your employees find a healthy balance between living for today, preparing for tomorrow and feeling confident about their future. And it all starts with a brief Financial Wellness Assessment.

Once the employee completes the assessment, the results are presented in real time on a personalized dashboard. Here, each employee can access the resources, tools and topics most relevant to them, helping them take the next best step toward improving their financial wellness.

After completing the assessment, 9 out of 10 users have taken action or plan to take action to improve their financial situation.8

Create a healthier workforce with financial wellness

With an aspiration to be America’s Retirement Company®, we realize that the financial demands of today are competing with the financial outcomes of the future. That’s why we are committed to helping your employees achieve financial wellness. In doing so, we can help alleviate some of the physical manifestations of stress to create a healthier, more productive workplace.


Related Items

  1. PWC Employee Financial Wellness Survey, 2018.
  2. Mccaig, Amy “How stress and loneliness can make your more likely to get COVID-19”, March,19 2020 - http://news.rice.edu/2020/03/19/how-stress-and-loneliness-can-make-you-more-likely-to-get-covid-19-2/
  3. Seeman, T.; Thomas, D.; Merkin, S.S.; Moore,  K.; Watson, K.; Karlamangla, A. The Great Recession worsened blood pressure and blood glucose levels in American adults. 2018 https://www.pnas.org/content/pnas/early/2018/03/06/1710502115.full.pdf
  4. Bankrate.com, Survey: Surprisingly fewer people losing sleep over money issues right now. 2020 https://www.bankrate.com/finance/credit-cards/losing-sleep-survey/
  5. American Press Association survey Stress in America: Paying with Our Health Survey, 2015.
  6.  Salary Finance, The Employer’s Guide to Financial Wellness, 2019.
  7. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Financial wellness at work, August 2014.
  8. Voya internal data, as of 12/31/19.

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