It’s no secret that financial problems can lead to stress, but new research has found that it can cause pain later in life. According to a new study from the University of Georgia, those who experience financial stress in midlife are more at risk of increased physical pain nearly 30 years later.
The study, published in Stress & Health, goes against other research focused on neurological reasons for pain related to family financial experiences.
Physical pain is considered an illness that has three major components – biological, psychological, and social. In older adults, pain often accompanies other health problems such as loneliness, cardiovascular disease, and limited physical functioning.
“Dr. Wickrama and I are both interested in the context surrounding families and how that context impacts the relational, physical and mental health of the individuals in the family,” said lead author Catherine Walker O’Neal. “Finances are an important component of our work because it’s such a relevant contextual stressor families face.”
For the study, data was used from the Iowa Youth and Family Project, which provided 27 years of information on rural families from a cluster of eight counties in north-central Iowa. A total of 500 families were studied who had experienced financial problems associated with the late 1980s farm crisis. Most of these participants are now 65 years old or older, and the couples have been married for as long as 45 years.
The results of the study were controlled for any physical illness that could interfere with the data. A connection was found between family hardship in the early 1990s and physical pain nearly three decades later. The conclusion of the study found that the physical pain most likely was caused by the financial strain. It was noted, however, that physical pain could also influence financial pressure through additional health care costs.
Brain Regions Affected by Stress
Researchers believe that stressful experiences can erode psychological resources like a sense of control. This decrease of resources in active brain regions sensitive to stress can promote physiological and neurological processes leading to health conditions such as physical pain. The depletion of resources has also been connected to cardiovascular disease.
Researchers hope the conclusion of this study can start a discussion of the importance of brain health when people are experiencing high levels of stress. In later years, many people experience memory loss, bodily pain, and loneliness. These conditions can be related to stress earlier in life, so people must get the help they need at the time of the stressful incident.