Wealthy is Healthy… Literally

That’s right, I’ll say it – wealthy is healthy. Speaking to physical health, the numbers simply don’t lie. Those with more money are physically healthier than those struggling to make ends meet each month. With poorer overall health, health care events and consequential costs usually go up; meaning more debt for those that already can’t afford it. In reality, there are more reasons that just health care that the wealthy are more healthy. Stay tuned to find out a few reasons why as well as tips to overcome some of the barriers.

Health Insurance – It’s true that those with health insurance tend to get more frequent and better health care. While there are still deductibles and co-pays, these costs are considerably less than paying the full bill out-of-pocket. Those in lower income brackets even with health insurance tend to receive seek less health care due to the deductibles and co-pays. When already on a tight budget, a $20 co-pay and 20% deductible may mean not paying utilities for the month.

Health insurance is certainly a subject that has had its share of media attention lately. There has been the mass coverage of Obamacare and the open marketplaces. Although, based on conversations with clients, I can tell you that the annual tax penalty for not having health insurance is often considerably less than the annual cost of health insurance even with the new structures in place. Translated – those on a tight budget and paying attention still don’t have health care.

Beyond health insurance and care, there are other physical health side effects of poor financial health.

The Cost of A Cart-fullA recent article, translating a report from the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine, reported that people of “high socioeconomic status” eat notably healthier than those of “low socioeconomic status”.grocery shopping

Why does this happen? Have you been to the grocery store lately? The healthier fresh vegetables and raw, un-super-processed meats are all more expensive (in many cases A LOT more expensive) than their less healthy alternatives. This may mean shoppers on a budget have to choose between buying healthy foods and buying enough to fill their stomachs at each meal.

A Rock for A PillowA recent poll conducted by the National Foundation on Credit Counseling looked at what keeps people awake at night. The number one response, with 79% of respondents choosing it, was financial worries. To provide some staggering context, the next highest reason for losing sleep was job security, with a mere 4% of respondents choosing it. That’s right, the study found Americans are 20 times more likely to lose sleep over financial worries than anything else.

So what does sleeplessness do to you? WebMD starts with 10 effects a lack of sleep can have on a person. I had heard that lack of sleep can have the same effect as driving under the influence of alcohol. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates 100,000 traffic accidents per year are due to driver drowsiness. That’s right – 100,000 accidents per year. The WebMD article also included effects such as learning struggles, heart disease, depression, memory, weight gain, and even attributes the nuclear meltdown at Three-Mile Island to sleep deprivation. All of that and financial worries are the number one cause of sleep loss.

I’m sure we could go on and on about the physical effects of poor financial health, but where does that really get us now that I already have your attention? So let’s look at fixing that. Is there anything to be done about the situation?

Priorities – Take a look at the bigger picture of your life. Look at all of the pieces that make your life what it is and decide which are the most important. Is there some cost further down the list that can be given up for the sake of your physical health through eating better? Where can you streamline expenses for the sake of less worry and better sleep?

Habits – Sure, fast food is quick and convenient. But it generally isn’t very healthy and, unless you are getting the $1 cheeseburger and only the $1 cheeseburger, it’s not very cost efficient either. Avoid spending impulsively and consider whether you really want or need the item. Will you lose more sleep over not having the money or not having the item you are tempted to purchase?

Accountability – There are all sorts of accountability options when it comes to physical health care. The doctor will ask the next time you go in for an appointment. Perhaps their nurse will call between appointments to check on you. Maybe you even have a health coach to keep you on track. Unfortunately, people don’t often use accountability partners for financial health. Let each member of your household keep each other on track financially. Ask an objective friend to provide support. Find a financial counselor to show you a direction and guide you along the way.

Be An Artist – Be creative when considering ways to improve your health. Growing vegetables in your own garden can reduce the cost of said produce thereby giving you a healthier diet and reducing your financial burden to do so. Are there ways to increase your income? Even a very part-time job can provide supplemental funds for a better diet. Sure, it’s more time away from home. But there are jobs out there that really are usually fun and again, it comes down to priorities – sitting at home worrying about finances and eating unhealthy foods or better providing for yourself and your family.

I’m not going to say it will always be easy. I will say that it is entirely possible to make financial improvements that will improve your physical health as well. Wherever you decide to go with your financial well-being, know that you are not alone. If you need someone to walk with you or even point you in the right direction, a counselor from the Center for Financial Resources is there to help. We have offices across eastern South Dakota and are only a phone call away.

Perhaps “Wealthy is Healthy” is a little strong after all. You don’t have to baby sleepingbe in the highest socioeconomic class to be either financially or physically fit. Start where you are and grown from there. You may be amazed where you end up with a more holistic approach to fitness. You might even end up sleeping like….. well…. like this again…
written by Breck Miller
images courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

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