There is no doubt about it – times are tough and most citizens are barely (or not even close to) making ends meet these days. “Which, leads to South Africans accumulating more debt and making proper financial management an impossible task,” says Matthys Potgieter, spokesperson and debt expert at DebtSafe. This reality goes along with more stress, sleepless nights, bad eating habits, low productivity and even depression. As it is Mental Health Awareness Month, DebtSafe therefore wants to highlight the importance of keeping one’s mind, but also one’s body and overall wellbeing healthy. The DebtSafe team ran a 2017 Wellness Survey on health and habits. More than 2000 South Africans took part in this questionnaire. The following results stood out and can shed some light on the importance of one’s mental as well as overall health.
The majority of the respondents indicated that financial stress influence their overall health (71%) and stress levels (65%). Eighty-seven percent also specified that financial stress contributes to their state of mind – feeling tired for no reason, worried and depressed. The biggest financial worries respondents pointed out, are: they have too much debt and that they are not able to save for anything.
Wilna Eksteen, a qualified dietitian from Pretoria, Gauteng, says people need to eat well to feel well, look healthy and live a long life. Fifty-Seven percent of the Wellness Survey’s respondents state that they eat takeaways a few times a month. This does not only indicate unhealthy eating habits, but, it also rips out a chunk of money that could have been tucked away for better use. Eksteen explains: “As soon as people are not mindful of what they are eating, how they are living and working, they lose their minds in a tornado of stress. Healthy eating is not supposed to be difficult, it is a lifestyle that makes people feel good. If they feel good, it is hard to be depressed and stressed.”
According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa, over a quarter of men and almost half of women are physically inactive. The DebtSafe Wellness Survey also shows a staggering 61% of the participants that only do 0-3 hours exercise a week. The Heart and Stroke Foundation furthermore explains that exercise is extremely important as it provides the most profound long-term health benefits.
Eighty-five percent indicated that financial stress is the reason for their lack of proper sleep. The respondents that exercise 0-3 hours a week also indicated that they sleep less than seven hours an evening. These patterns, therefore, leave them feeling more stressed, jaded for no reason, depressed and unhappy.
Productivity at Work
Financial stress can drain one’s energy which has a direct impact on work productivity. Seventy-four percent of the respondents indicated that financial stress contributes to their low productivity levels and they were absent a total number of four days at work during the month of March 2017, because of their mental health. Almost 60% rated their productivity only as average and below average. There was no indication whatsoever of an above average or very high productivity level.
From the above information, it is evident that financial stress impacts one’s mental and overall wellbeing. Potgieter says that although financial stress is a part of South Africans’ lives these days, they must try and get the necessary assistance they need and, to also attempt high and low to lighten their debt load. “Consumers should go and see their financial planner to set their finances off in a new and better direction. And, if they are currently stuck in a very bad over-indebted state, they shouldn’t get discouraged and depressed, they can contact DebtSafe to assist them in becoming debt-free,” recommends Potgieter. He concludes: “there are various professionals that can assist; South African consumers do not have to be ashamed seeking the required help to improve their health and future financial situation.
DebtSafe encourages consumers to start taking a serious look at their lifestyle, mental and overall health as well as their financial situation. Don’t delay – get a stress-free and healthy lifestyle going today.