Ouch! Being Broke Causes Legit Physical Pain, Says Study

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Stress From Being Broke Causes Physical Pain, Says Science

Do you feel like you have a good financial foundation, or do you suffer from economic insecurity and stress? If your finances are on shaky ground with massive debt and no savings for the future, you may actually be experiencing more physical pain than those who are financially secure.

New research in the journal Psychological Science suggests that the link between financially insecurity and pain may be driven, at least in part, by feeling a lack of control over one's life.

"Overall, our findings reveal that it physically hurts to be economically insecure," said researcher Eileen Chou of the University of Virginia. "Results from six studies establish that insecurity produces physical pain, reduces pain tolerance, and predicts over-the-counter painkiller consumption."

Chou and her research team conducted the studies using data collected from 33,720 homes across the United States. In one study, they discovered that in homes where neither of the adults were employed, they spent approximately 20 percent more on painkillers compared to homes where only one of the adults was unemployed.

In another of the studies, 100 participants were asked to fill out an online survey. Initially, they were asked to think about a time in their life when they felt like they had total control, and then asked to describe and think about that time for at least 90 seconds.

Afterward, the subjects were asked to report how much pain they were in at that exact moment directly after describing that time. Next, they were asked to remember a time when they had no control whatsoever. When the participants thought about the time of being out of control, they reported feeling twice as much pain as compared to when they felt in control. 

A third study looked at pain tolerance specifically. 114 of the student participants were asked to hold their hands in ice water for as long as possible in order to measure their baseline pain tolerance. Half of the students were then asked to read a statement about a secure job market while the other half read a statement about going into an insecure job market.

Students were asked to comment on how the average college student might feel about entering into a job market scenario.

Those who were given the insecure scenario couldn't keep their hand in the ice water bucket for as long as those give a more secure scenario could, which indicated a drop in their pain tolerance level.

"By showing that physical pain has roots in economic insecurity and feelings of lack of control, the current findings offer hope for short-circuiting the downward spiral initiated by economic insecurity and producing a new, positive cycle of well-being and pain-free experience," the researchers wrote.

Having a strong financial foundation isn't just good for your mental health, but for your physical health as well. So go ahead and start planning for the future.