Study Suggests That Financial Stress Can Lead to Physical Pain in Later Years

Selective focus of man embracing senior wife near documents on tableIt’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.

Author Bio

Sarah began her interest in nutritional healing at an early age. After going through health problems and becoming frustrated with the conventional ways doctors wanted to treat her illness (which were not working), she took it upon herself to find alternative treatments. This led her to revolutionize her own diet to help her get healthier and tackle her health problems. She began treating her illness by living a more balanced lifestyle through healthy food choices, exercise and other alternative medicine such as meditation. This total positive lifestyle change led her to earn a diploma in Nutritional Therapy from Health Sciences Academy in London, England. Today, Sarah enjoys helping others by teaching healthy lifestyle changes through her personal consultations and with her regular contributions to the Doctors Health Press. Also, passionate about following her dreams in life, Sarah moved to France and lived in Paris for over 5 years where she earned a certification in beadwork and embroidery from Lesage (an atelier owned by Chanel). She then went on to be a familiar face sitting front row and reporting from Paris Fashion Week. Sarah continues to practice some of the cultural ways of life she learned while in Europe. They enjoy their food, and take the time to relax and enjoy many of life’s little moments. These are life lessons she is glad to have brought back home with her.