Money panic is harming men's mental health - here's how to get back on track
Financial worries are having an adverse impact on men's mental health, new research has revealed.
New stats from Yolt, have found that 2.3 million men in the UK have had panic attacks as a direct result of money worries, which equates to nearly 10% of the male population.
A further one in seven (14%) men said they had been unable to sleep due to money worries, and over one in ten (12%) said they ignored their finances because it made them feel anxious or depressed.
Pauline van Brakel, chief product officer at Yolt, says the fact that so many men are feeling overwhelmed by money worries is "concerning".
She believes the pandemic and the uncertainty surrounding jobs and income may have exacerbated fears surrounding financial concerns.
“Money can often be a source of stress for many and is likely to have been even more so during the pandemic and the economic uncertainty brought with it," she explains.
While the pandemic is thought to have contributed to increased financial stress for many, experts believe there are some other reasons men seem particularly impacted.
"Financial worries have an impact across mental health. They contribute to anxiety because one’s sense of survival is being threatened," explains Dr Elena Touroni, consultant psychologist and co-founder/co-CEO of My Online Therapy.
"But financial worries can have an even more significant impact on male mental health as many men traditionally perceive themselves as being the breadwinners in the family."
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Dr Touroni says this can often create an extra level of anxiety in the sense that there is a feeling of responsibility to provide for their loved ones.
Consultant psychiatrist Dr Paul McLaren, from Hayes Grove agrees that despite challenges to gender stereotypes, many men still identify with role of provider or breadwinner for their families.
"Financial security becomes integral to their self-esteem, and threats to that security can feel very stressful," he explains. "Panic attacks are common and often arise from prolonged periods of stress."
Culture of Silence
As well as the pressure of having to provide, experts also believe men are less willing or feel unable to open up if they are suffering from financial stress.
“Financial worries are a huge ‘background’ pressure that, often, men do not want to discuss with their nearest and dearest," explains Priory consultant psychiatrist Dr Niall Campbell.
“They are frequently a significant cause of physical – especially cardiac – and psychological stress."
Dr Campbell says financial stress has been identified as one of the major triggers of male depression, which can have a serious knock-on effect on the capacity to do a job and keep a relationship together.
"A recent poll revealed a quarter of men regarded losing their job as making them feel ‘less of a person’ compared to 17% of women," he explains.
“So men bottle things up more. They think they need to just keep their head down and ‘crack on’."
Read more: Depression common after mild or severe coronavirus, study suggests
Additionally depression and anxiety then make it harder to manage money, which can lead to a negative cycle.
"You may find it harder to concentrate on, or manage, tackling bills, or you may lose money by taking time off because you cannot cope," Dr Campbell adds.
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What should men do if financial stress is impacting their mental health?
According to Dr Campbell the first step is opening up to someone about what you are going through.
“My advice would definitely be to talk about it," he says. "Avoid excess alcohol and betting, and make sure you eat healthily and exercise, and talk through steps you can take with someone you trust."
There are also some practical things can you do to take the pressure off, both now and in the medium to long-term.
"Be compassionate with yourself - remind yourself that you’re in the same boat as many people struggling with the same issue right now," suggests Dr Touroni.
She also recommends using mindfulness to try and keep anxiety levels under control, and practicing plenty of self-care.
Dr McLaren believes it is important to deal with financial concerns directly, and sooner rather than later.
"There is a real temptation to adapt an ostrich response to financial pressures, ignoring correspondence and hoping it goes away," he says.
"Avoidance brings only very temporary relief and will only leave you with deeper problems and higher stress."
If you're concerned financial worries are having an impact on your mental health, you should also talk to your GP.
"Citizens Advice is a good place to get information about how to deal with debt, what you're entitled to if you're made redundant and who to speak to if you're at risk of losing your home," Dr Campbell adds.
"There is also useful advice about mental health and financial issues on some charities’ websites, including mental health charity Mind.”
Or contact stepchange.org for help and support with debt, without judgment.
Read more: Why aren’t men seeking help for their mental health?
Money management tips
If you are feeling stressed about money, Yolt has put together some expert-backed tips to help you feel more on top of your finances.
Talk to friends or family about money. It is often more helpful than you might think. Opening up and sharing your worries is much better than keeping things bottled up and trying to manage on your own.
Set a finite budget and stick to it. Track your spending to make sure you don’t exceed this limit. If you have more than one account (perhaps a debit, saving and credit account), it can be easy to lose track of where your money is, which can lead to you feeling overwhelmed. Setting a realistic budget and tracking spending can be massively useful in helping you plan and outline budgets that work for you, helping you to avoid relying on credit where possible and allowing you to feel more on top of your money.
Spend smarter by shopping around for the best deals, and keep an eye out for money saving offers wherever possible. Knowing you are in control of exactly how you spend your money, and that there are plenty of options out there to 'spend smart' can be hugely empowering.
Keep your savings and spending money separate from each other. This will ensure you don’t unintentionally dip into your savings, and also allows you to see the progress you are making in reaching your savings goals.
Start saving small. Remember any saving, no matter how big or small, is a positive step and something you should feel proud of and celebrate.