DebtSafe Blog

Debt Stress – A Current Health Hazard for South African Consumers

South Africans know only too well how hectic life can be. Juggling various tasks at work, perhaps trying to hold the fort at home and making ends meet with more month to the end of their money. Think of the stress levels they experience on a daily basis. And, since finances play an important part in their lives, can the strain caused by money or debt be classified as a serious health hazard for them these days? The current economy indicates that times sure are tough and South Africans tend to look at credit to try and make life a bit ‘easier’. Research has also indicated, numerous times, that financial or debt-related stress can indeed affect individuals’ physical, emotional and mental health. How stressful.

In helping to spread the word and creating awareness of Mental Health Awareness Month this October, DebtSafe would, hereby, like to share recent debt and financial stress related statistics. This feedback was shared by over a thousand respondents that took part in the DebtSafe Financial Reality Survey (June 2019). And, may confirm the fact that financial or debt stress can be seen as one of the serious health hazards of modern times.

Financial strain or stress has influenced:

  • 56% of these consumers’ stress levels.
  • 40% of the respondents’ sleep patterns.
  • and distorted decision-making abilities for 29% of these respondents.
  • the overall health of 28% of the consumers.
  • 26% of the respondents’ relationships.

Main reasons for having debt:

  • tough economic times (living costs like food, fuel etc. are ridiculously expensive) – 67%.
  • education/school expenses (personal/children/other relatives) – 38%.
  • unforeseen/emergency expenses (death, car and/or house repairs) – 29%.

The biggest financial worry these respondents experience:

  • income not keeping up with inflation – 25%.
  • not being able to save for anything – 21%.

“These statistics are an unhealthy pill to swallow,” says Carla Oberholzer (debt adviser at DebtSafe). “And, consumers have to go back to their financial health chart or drawing board to see what they can do to improve their money management skills, while getting rid of debt in the process. This can then help limit their overall stress levels,” highlights Oberholzer.

Since consumers’ financial or debt stress has been evident lately, it can cause a ripple effect of anxiety throughout a person’s physical wellness, emotional health and mental state. It is time for South Africans to take another look at their finance management. Here are four financial tips to help them in doing just that and, to get clarity over their fiscal position to fix their stress levels in the process:

  1. Without a practical budget, an individual can’t be able to grasp the bigger financial situation he or she is in. And, not be as proactive with their finances as they ought to be.

  2. Consumers need to have a hands-on approach when it comes to their financial situation and fixing their debt. They should print out a few months’ bank statements and highlight or inspect those ‘spending leaks’, ‘concerning payments’ and money-wasted deductions that they find.

  3. They should always encourage proper two-way communication with their banker, financial planner or credit provider – whether they need to negotiate certain terms or get the financial help they request.

  4. Without the assistance or support of various experts, South African consumers can surely struggle to get out of debt, and their physical, emotional and mental health state can get a severe knock because of it. If their financial situation is out of control the National Credit Regulator is here to assist. In some cases, Debt Review can be a viable option to protect a house or car in the process, for example. And, if individuals are struggling with sleep patterns, anxiety and various health issues due to this type of financial stress – they should consult or go to their nearest healthcare practitioner or provider (like a hospital and clinic) that can assist them with the additional support that they also might require.

Mental, physical and emotional health play vital roles when it comes to a consumer’s overall health. South Africans should not let their financial or debt stress cause a ‘severe health hazard’ for themselves. Individuals should take care and not allow debt or financial strain to be a burden that ruins wellbeing, and damp their never-ending attempts to live an abundantly healthy life.