Can money worries remodel your brain?

Financial anxiety is a feature of many people’s daily lives at the moment. Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs, while the end of the furlough scheme threatens the livelihoods of many more.

Lying awake at night counting the pennies may cause more harm than just making you tired the next day.

A lack of financial resilience

In a 2018 study, Zurich1 teamed up with a neuroscientist to explore the impact of not being financially resilient on our mental health and brain chemistry. The study asked a group of survey respondents whether they believed they were financially resilient. Of those who did not, more than eight in ten said they regularly wake up at night worrying about money.

Neuroscientist Dr Jack Lewis suggested that chronic anxiety and stress releases large amounts of the stress hormone, cortisol, into our bloodstream. He continued: “Constantly worrying about finances means having chronically elevated cortisol levels, which gradually wears us down. In extreme cases, it can actually remodel certain brain areas.”

Ways to carry on

According to the research, one in three respondents said they would be unable carry on with normal life if they experienced a financial shock or loss of income. There are things you can do to mitigate the impact. Products such as income protection insurance, critical illness cover and life insurance can all help to buffer you and your family against life’s unexpected shocks. The payouts on these policies, should valid claims arise, can help you maintain your family’s lifestyle, pay your bills and mortgage, and get you back on your feet without significant financial damage.

1Zurich, 2018

A pension is a long-term investment. The fund value may fluctuate and can go down. Your eventual income may depend on the size of the fund at retirement, future interest rates and tax legislation.