Can Severe Personal Debt Lead To Mental Illness?

Armen Hareyan's picture

Personal debt is a growing problem, but is an even greater problem for those that suffer mental illness for a variety of reasons. In many cases it is the anxiety over the amount of debt they have that has contributed to the mental health issue, but others have got into debt while already suffering from the illness.

Even now, as would-be lenders become ultra-cautious about to whom they lend, credit is still readily available. Advertising regularly espouses the "buy now, pay later" culture, into which many of us have been drawn. It now appears impossible to enjoy an everyday life without incurring some element of debt along the way, as many struggle to get onto the housing ladder or afford their drastically increased mortgage payments.

But, while most manage to just keep their head above water, financially, many more are drowning in debt, and dealing with that throws up many emotional problems. The classification of 'over-indebtedness' by the Citizens Advice Bureau includes someone who is "unable to pay their current credit repayments and meet their other commitments without reducing other expenditure below normal minimal levels." Many of the people who fall into that classification will suffer more readily from depression and ill-health, and that includes mental illness, as well as being more likely to incur even more debt.


The department of health and the environment at the Wales Centre for Health is conducting research into the link between ill health and debt. Director Susan Malby said:

"Most of us are in debt of some kind, but we prefer to call it credit, a much more socially acceptable way of describing debt. However, over-indebtedness isn't linked uniquely with poor debt management or low-income families. Events such as birth of a child, sudden unemployment, the death of someone close, long-term illness or disability; all significantly increase the chances of falling into severe debt."

The study has found that many who fall into debt suffer health problems because they can no longer afford to eat properly or heat their home. That adds to the anxiety they are already feeling and that's when people can slip into the spiral of hopelessness that in-turn leads to lack of self-esteem at best, or can manifest itself as mental illness in worst case scenarios.

To prevent that Malby recommends that anyone in the situation where they need help finding appropriate debt solutions, should immediately contact the Citizens Advice Bureau in the first instance, and get back on the road to financial and emotional well-being.

Elisha Burberry is an online, freelance journalist and keen traveller and watersports enthusiast. Originally from Scotland, she now resides in London.