Whether it’s considered “good debt” or “bad debt, ” the truth is, any debt can cause serious emotional effects. Studies show what many of us already know: Debt is about much more than money. Being in debt can lead to a number of other emotional and psychological issues.
The average American has $15, 950 in credit card debt, and 39% of Americans carry credit card debt month to month, according to CreditCards.com. Meanwhile, the average college student will graduate with a whopping $40, 000 in student loans — and those who pursued graduate or higher degrees, switched majors, or went back to school may owe significantly more. In fact, about one in five borrowers owes $50, 000 or more in student loans (and 5.6% owe more than $100, 000), according to a Federal Reserve Board survey.
Round it out with car loans, mortgages, medical debt, personal loans, and other obligations, and it’s safe to assume that most Americans carry some kind of debt.
That debt affects different people in different ways. There is no common tolerance of debt. While one person may suffer anxiety over just $1, 000 of credit card debt, someone else may not have thought twice about his debt until he saw his student loan and credit card balance top $200, 000.
Regardless of the type of debt or the amount, here are some of the common psychological and emotional issues associated with debt.
Depression and Anxiety
Dr. John Gathergood of the University of Nottingham studied the correlation between carrying debt and any depression and anxiety associated with it. In that study, Gathergood found that those who struggle to pay off their debts and loans are more than twice as likely to experience a host of mental health problems, including depression and severe anxiety.
Anxious feelings can arise with an array of triggers, such as constant worry about money, experiencing immense feelings of being overwhelmed with no end in sight, and hopelessness. The study also reported that 29% of people with high debt stress also report severe anxiety.
Meanwhile, Social Science & Medicine did a study on household financial debt and its impact on mental and physical health. No surprises here: That study also found that high amounts of debt are associated with higher rates of stress and depression.
Likewise, the Royal College of Psychiatrists collected and examined the findings of more than 50 research papers over time, and found that men and women with higher risk credit behavior were more likely to report depression symptoms.
Debt is rough on anyone — especially when it encroaches on your marriage, partnership, or family. A spouse or partner may resent the other as a way of coping with debt. It isn’t uncommon to blame your partner for coming into the relationship with more debt, losing a job, or not making enough money, or spending habits that may have led to debt.
In fact, arguments about money are the top predictor of divorce, according to Sonya Britt, assistant professor of family studies at Kansas State University. The Royal College of Psychiatrists also concluded that large amounts of debt have severe effects on a household’s psychological well-being.