You may not have experienced it before, but you’ve probably noticed a hit to your back pocket as a result of rising cost of living pressures over the last few months. If you feel like your dollar is not going as far as before, you’re not imagining it – expensive groceries and higher interest rates are only a few of the things putting pressure on our financial (and personal) health.
In the current climate, financial stress has become increasingly important: factors like rising inflation and increased living costs means that many households are cutting back costs, and in some cases cutting back on essentials such as food, clothing, and heating.
The ability to afford essentials doesn’t just affect our sense of safety – it’s also a basic requirement for our overall health. If you or someone you know is under financial strain, it’s important to take action and seek help if appropriate.
Rising costs and your health
Beyond its immediate impact on our wallets, the cost of living crisis has the potential to significantly affect our physical and mental wellbeing, and it’s not hard to see why: the Consumer Price Index (the index which measures real-time household inflation) rose by 7.1% over the last 12 months, meaning that the cost of food, rent, petrol and other necessities has substantially increased.
- Gas prices have risen from 22.8% to 35% over the December – March quarter, driven by demand in major cities.
- The cost of food has soared in recent months, with an average 9.2% increase across the board in the December quarter. Food inflation is expected to continue to mid-2023.
- Rents in Australian capital cities have risen 11.7% over the last 12 months, equivalent to $63 a week, or $3,200 a year.
While there are many explanations for why this is happening, the end result for many is greater financial strain and worry, even with self-help measures like budgeting and other forms of financial assistance. It’s estimated that the average Australian worker earning the minimum wage has $57 left for spending after weekly expenses.
The continual rise in the cost of living can only add more pressure if you’re already struggling. The Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System report found that a disproportionate number of people with mental health issues had a low income. As a low income is already a barrier to finding medical or mental health support, long-term financial problems can only exacerbate this cycle.
Some signs that financial stress is affecting your health and relationships include:
- arguing with the people closest to you about money
- difficulty sleeping
- feeling angry, fearful or experiencing mood swings
- tiredness, aches and pains
- withdrawing from others
- feeling guilty when you spend money
- delaying health care you need, due to the cost.
While these are normal reactions to being under financial stress, they can affect your health if they continue for more than a few weeks. You could be at risk of developing anxiety or depression.
What can you do to minimise financial stress?
If your financial situation is causing you significant stress, there are some things you can do:
- Assess your financial situation: Take a closer look at your income, savings, and debt. Making sense of your income and expenses can help you manage your finances more effectively. It’s also a way to put money aside for unplanned expenses or emergencies.
- Take care of your health: Eat a healthy, balanced diet and exercise regularly. Talk to your doctor if you have a medical condition that can be made worse by stress.
- Don’t be afriad to ask for help: There is stigma attached to having any kind of financial difficulty, but there is help available including the National Debt Helpline.
Your EAP is here to help
If you’re concerned about your financial situation, Converge offers free and confidential help through your EAP, including Money Assist. You can call our team for a friendly chat on 1300 687 327 or book through the app.