Food quality (and quantity), the way we exercise, relax and live our lives all impact on our health. Many of these are dependent on access to a decent disposable income. Money isn’t everything, but when we rely on it to provide us with the basics, we need to think about the impact it has on our health.
All too often, I will see a patient who is struggling to recover from an illness, or who cannot take time off because they won’t get paid if they do. As much as we like to kid ourselves that “money isn’t everything” and “you can’t take it with you”, I think these are excuses that prevent us from actually dealing with our money and get it supporting us rather than stress us out.
So this is my take on the wealth-health connection, and how it impacts on EVERY aspect of our lives.
“Without the support of money to bring resources and security, I don’t believe that we can have true health” – Dr Nikki Ramskill
If money were no object, would you shop where you do now? Maybe yes, but would you buy what you do now? I would love to have fresh ingredients delivered to my door, perhaps organic, and shop in my local farm shops. I could have the best and finest ingredients if I wanted to. Heck, if I had all the money in the world, you’d bet I’d have a personal chef to do it for me and my family!
If you’ve ever looked at supermarket offers, you’ll notice that a lot of it is on convenience food, pre-packaged, high in salt and high in sugar. Very rarely will you have offers on good cuts of meat or vegetables.
Kelly from Reduced Grub has noticed this too, and callenged herself to see if she could feed her family healthily for less than £30 per week. You can see how she did and maybe pick up some tips of your own!
Jenny from Mummy Saver, Money Maker agrees – “Back when I was a single mum I was eating cheap crap food and not much fresh veg etc because I hardly had any money. My pancreas ended up getting over stimulated and became inflamed and I had to take some tablets and not eat fat for 6 weeks until I had a check up!”
Food quality is the first thing that springs to my mind about how money and health are intertwined – the ability to make healthier choices at the check-out is a big one that affects us all!
Having money does not necessarily guarantee that you’d get fitter, but what if you could stretch to a personal trainer? Maybe even a yoga instructor who comes to your house? Perhaps you could take up a new hobby like horse-riding?
Would this motivate you more or make you feel more relaxed? You could have a gym built into a room in your house or back garden. Having more money definitely helps. Even some of the cheapest gym memberships could be out of reach for some people.
The good news is that the internet is full of free resources you can use to exercise with so do a thorough search. If the motivation and the “why” is there – you’ll find a way to exercise and stay healthy even if you’re broke.
Do you take vitamins? Can you afford to buy vitamins? If you wanted to, you could find a pill in Holland and Barrett (or even the internet for that matter) that addresses all manner of ailments. High blood pressure, cholesterol, memory loss, even depression. Some great, and well, some not so great. But having a higher disposable income allows you the choice to take whatever you deem necessary. It is well documented that healthy pregnancies need decent vitamin intakes, especially of folic acid to prevent spina bifida in earlier foetuses. There is increasing evidence to support the use of vitamin D in pregnancy now.
Again sadly, this is not something everyone can necessarily access when they struggle to make ends meet. Thankfully in the UK, the NHS is providing a lot of these supplements in pregnancy for free, but often the best results are when they are taken at least 3 months BEFORE the pregnancy has even started and for at least 3 months into the pregnancy…and with 1 in 6 pregnancies being unplanned in the UK, this is not a easy task!
We’re really lucky in the UK that our prescriptions are heavily subsidised, but even the £9 per item charge is out of some people’s reach. I have had people take tablets every other day, or in half-doses just to make the prescription last longer. I have also seen people who have just stopped taking their medication due to costs. wealth-health connection
Not only does this MASSIVELY put someone at risk of ongoing health issues, it can cause all manner of unpleasant side-effects from stopping abruptly.
And what if you don’t live in the UK? Your prescriptions cost money…..no money = no health care. The wealth-health connection cannot be ignored. wealth-health connection
Obesity and Poverty
Obesity is now very much linked to low socio-economic status. Not only is there an issue with lack of resources to fund a healthier lifestyle, but low educational attainment leads to a poorer understanding of how food and lifestyle impacts health. With supermarkets offering discounts on rubbish food, it’s no wonder!
In fact, an OECD study in 2006 showed “a negative, non-linear relationship between education and obesity such that more education is associated with less obesity.” Obviously this a sweeping generalisation, but this is what the identified trends suggest.
And what about the parents who can’t afford anything at all? “Failure to thrive” due to poor nutrition actually has an impact on a child’s developing brain and how it functions. Lack of food at school leads to distracted, unruly children! It even affects unborn foetuses – this evidence suggests that poor nutrition leads to poor health in later life, known as”nutritional-programming” in utero.
Food costs money. And there we are again with the ‘m’ word. It doesn’t matter how we look at it, Money is the lynch-pin.
Long-Term Care Costs
Another area that breaks my heart is in long-term care of the elderly. Care isn’t cheap. It’s one of the BIGGEST frustrations I have as a doctor working in the community – the ability to get people the nursing care, or social care that they need to have a decent quality of life. There are thousands of people out there right now who have no family and barely any support. They may even be your neighbour.
If you have saved all your life and have some decent assets, you’ll be able to afford carers, food delivery to your home, cleaners, gardeners and all sorts of other professionals who can make your life easier in your old age.
If you haven’t, then you are at the mercy of your local council. This is then down to a post-code lottery of care, and if you’re lucky, it will be adequate to help your needs or those of your loved ones.
So having money can seriously impact on the kind of retirement you have and how you are looked after in your old age. The welath-health connection permeates through ALL generates and ALL people.
Worries about money can lead to serious cases of anxiety and depression. I know that when I was stressed about my finances, I had trouble sleeping. I was often tearful and would notice palpitations at the thought of opening letters or visiting the bank!
My situation was not as awful as some. Luckily for me, my job means I can earn more money usually whenever I need to, and can get myself out of tough situations, but I know others are not as fortunate as this.
I still get feelings of anxiety regarding money at times, but it has improved hugely!! Knowing that I’m in control of my money is a great feeling, and one which makes me excited, not scared. Eileen of Your Money Sorted agrees in this post about how money and happiness are intertwined.
Sara of Debt Camel has written a fab article on the impact of debt on mental health with some practical advice to use to help yourself.
Equally, having a mental health condition can lead to poor finances. Bipolar disorder can lead to huge over-spending and getting into debt, while depression can cause someone to complete ignore all activities related to sorting out their money. The money advice service has some helpful hints you can access on their site. wealth-health connection
And if your mental health impacts your finances, please always seek help! and don’t suffer in silence.
I often see patients come through A&E with money worries on their mind, especially those facing long term issues with their health, such as managing cancer for example.
The young, or those who work for themselves are particularly vulnerable. The former because they don’t tend to have savings, the latter because they don’t get paid if they don’t go to work. Sometimes they’re one and the same person.
What Can Be Done About Your Wealth-Health Connection?
So you can see, money touches everything and everyone, and it doesn’t matter who you are. Unless you’re roaming free somewhere in the jungle and are completely self-sufficient, you’ll likely need cash for the roof over your head, the food on your table, and the clothes on your back. The wealth-health connection is undeniable.
If you recognise the financial struggle in your own life, do yourself and your health a favour and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! Start an emergency fund at the very least so that when something comes up that requires instant cash, you’ll be secure in the knowledge that you can handle it no matter what.
Think about your future – will you be able to fund your retirement properly to keep yourself healthy and wealthy?
If you want more handy tips and hints, I also have a private Facebook group – why not come and join me in there and keep the money conversation going!
Until next time,