Are health problems causing debt?

UKAre health problems causing debt?

Debt is often associated with mental health concerns such as stress, anxiety, and depression, but could your health problems also be causing you to struggle with your finances? 

How can health problems cause debt? 

Health problems, injuries, and serious illnesses don’t only affect you physically and mentally, they can also impact your finances. In fact, a report by the Health Foundation found that 20% of people experiencing problem debt in the UK also report having ‘bad’ or ‘very bad’ health. 

Depending on the type of health concern you’re experiencing, you might need to take some time off work, permanently reduce the number of hours you work each week or stop working altogether. These changes to your working patterns can severely impact your income or leave you with no money coming in at all to cover your bills, putting you at greater risk of falling into debt. 

The same can be true if you need to take on caring responsibilities for a family member experiencing poor health, especially if this means you need to cut your working hours or take a pay cut to find a more flexible job role.

Living with a health condition can also be expensive. Depending on where you live and the services you can access, you might face higher costs for things like frequent trips to the hospital or doctors’ appointments, hospital parking, specialist treatments outside of the NHS, and prescriptions. 

How can being in debt affect your health?

The relationship between poor health and debt problems works both ways. When you’re struggling with debt, you may also find that your health is suffering, especially your mental health, and money problems can exacerbate any existing health concerns. 

Mental health can be a particular concern. Worrying about money, being chased by creditors, and facing potential bailiff action can cause stress and anxiety as well as worsening conditions like depression. 

If you find that your debts have increased, especially with the cost-of-living crisis in the UK, you might also be finding it more difficult to find funds to pay for things that are needed for healthy living. A lack of disposable income could limit the amount you can spend on nutritious food, prevent you from undertaking activities like going to the gym or attending a fitness class, or make it impossible to invest in complementary therapies such as massages or dietary supplements. 

Mental health and debt 

Mental health is arguably the area most affected when people are struggling with debt. A study by the Royal College of Psychiatrists found that half of all adults with a debt problem also live with mental ill health. 

There are many reasons for this; being in debt is stressful in itself, but existing mental health conditions can also make it much more difficult to manage your finances. Depression can reduce your motivation to track your spending, for example, certain conditions can lead to making rash financial decisions, and others may make it harder for individuals to remember to pay bills on time or make considered choices. 

If your mental health is impacting your ability to keep up with your debts, consider asking for a Debt and Mental Health Evidence Form. This can be completed by a health or social care worker and then shared with your creditors so that they have a better understanding of your situation and know to be more patient when dealing with you. 

What can I do if I’m struggling with my health and worried about debt?

Apply for benefits and grants

There are several different benefits that you may be able to claim if you’re suffering from a long-term or severe health condition that limits your ability to work. Depending on your circumstances, you might qualify for: 

·       Free or reduced cost NHS treatment 

·       Council tax and/or housing benefit

·       Government mortgage scheme help 

·       Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit

·       Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

Charities can also offer grants and loans for people affected by certain illnesses such as Macmillan, who are able to provide financial support to some cancer patients. You may also have payment protection insurance on some of your debts. Be sure to investigate and make a claim if you can. 

Speak to your employer

If you’re employed full or part-time and unable to do your job normally due to illness, you can ask your employer to make reasonable adjustments such as allowing you to work for home until you recover. If you need to take time off, check your employment contract as you may be eligible for company sick pay. Statutory sick pay is also available for up to 28 weeks. To qualify, you must be employed and have been earning at least £112 a week in the two months before you stopped working. 

Make a new budget 

Whether you’re expecting your income to be reduced for a short time or your health problems require you to make a more permanent change, it’s worth making a new budget that better reflects your current circumstances. Writing down all your essential payments can help you identify the costs that you can easily cut out of your monthly spend as well as offer reassurance that you know exactly how much you need to cover the basics.

Seek debt advice 

Getting professional debt advice can not only help you find solutions that could start to tackle your debts, but it could also alleviate some of the stress that is making your health problems even worse. Our friendly team will take the time to understand your situation and talk you through the different debt management solutions available so that you can find the right one for you. They could even help you enter a Mental Health or standard Breathing Space if that would be the best next step. 

Navigating health problems and debt? Our team My Debt Plan is here to help. Give us a call on 0161 8260 585 or visit the website for more information. 

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