It is a well-known fact that stress can negatively affect your physical and mental health. With the ever-increasing size of student loan debt paired with the consequences and after-shock of a global pandemic and presidential turnover, it’s no surprise that college students are feeling stress at an all-time high. Stress can creep into your daily life and affect you in ways you may not be aware of. If you have found yourself feeling uncomfortable in day-to-day life lately your student loan debt might be part of the reason why. Here are five ways your student loans are affecting your health and what you can do to help yourself get back on track.
- Your Sleep Schedule
If you’ve found yourself tossing and turning in the early hours of the morning, it could be because your brain is having trouble deactivating your “flight or fight ” mode, which is the brain’s biological response to the anxiety of a perceived threat. The official Sleep Foundation website explains that those suffering from stress or anxiety may find falling and staying asleep troublesome due to the brain’s state of hyperarousal and increased sleep reactivity. For those suffering from insomnia or disrupted sleep, talk therapy, meditation, and anti-anxiety medications can help. Speak to a physician or psychiatrist before trying any medications. Building a consistent sleep routine can help reduce stress around sleeping as well. It is also recommended to avoid caffeine and alcohol near bedtime and take up exercise as a stress reliever.1
- Aches and Pains
Student loan debt often comes with other stressors such as school and work. For those entering the workforce while carrying the weight of student loan debt, physical symptoms of this stress may include headaches, muscle tension, and an upset stomach. Over-the-counter medicines such as Pepto Bismol and Tylenol can help reduce the symptoms of a stressed stomach or hypertension headaches. Heating pads and Epsom Salt baths can relax tense muscles causing pain. Staying hydrated and eating well can also reduce the symptoms of stress and increase productivity in the workplace, which is vital to the success of young graduates.2
A debt of any kind can invoke feelings of inadequacy and deliver a blow to one’s self-esteem. Student loan debt in particular often leads to depression due to the vulnerability of its young victims and the uncertainty of all those still working towards their degree or entering the workforce. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America states that symptoms of depression may include feelings of hopelessness, guilt, worthlessness, fatigue, a loss of interest in hobbies and activities, a low sex drive, difficulty concentrating, irritability, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts or tendencies.3 Speaking to a mental health professional and looking into natural remedies for depression and fatigue can help reduce these symptoms.
- Heart Disease
Studies published by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine show that those with significant student loan debts are at a higher risk for heart disease than those without. This is partly due to inflammation of the body caused by the C-reactive protein that your liver develops and releases into the bloodstream to combat inflammation. This study showed that race and ethnicity did not have an impact on the cardiovascular health of those in student loan debt. Other factors for the increase in heart disease include a cheaper, carbohydrate-heavy diet, lack of exercise, and intense, prolonged stress levels. Students who come from low socio-economic backgrounds are at a much higher risk for developing heart disease as a result of their student loan stress. The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health suggests that the health risks of student loan debt may outweigh the benefits of post-secondary education for many low-income students.4 To prevent heart disease, talk therapy, psychiatric medications, consistent monitoring of one’s blood pressure, and stress-reducing activities like exercise and dietary changes may be necessary. Speaking to a financial expert may be beneficial to those struggling to manage their income comfortably.
- Your Sex Life
Student loan stress affects more than just your work/life balance; it can also affect your dating and sex life. The Student Loan Hero group conducted a survey in 2017 of over 1,000 Americans with student loan debt and found that 32 percent of loan recipients say that the stress caused by their debt has decreased their sex drive. This financial stress has led to arguments about the amount of money for many couples and has resulted in 46 percent of borrowers delaying starting a family, 25 percent from moving in with their significant other, and 13 percent from even going on a first date with a new romantic interest. Stress-relieving techniques and communication with your partner as well as financial planning can help both couples and single people regain interest in sex and increase their ability to perform in the bedroom.5
We can’t expect the stress of student loans to go away soon, if ever. However, it doesn’t mean we have to let these loans affect us more than they should. By being prepared and knowing the resources available to help your physical and mental health, you can be prepared to prevent these adverse effects from impacting you.
1“Anxiety and Sleep.” Sleep Foundation, 25 Mar. 2022, https://www.sleepfoundation.org/mental-health/anxiety-and-sleep.
2“Stress Symptoms: Physical Effects of Stress on the Body.” WebMD, WebMD, https://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/stress-symptoms-effects_of-stress-on-the-body#:~:text=Department%20of%20Health%20and%20Human%20Services%3A%20%22Stress%20and%20Your%20Health.%22.
3“Symptoms.” Symptoms | Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA, 11 Jan. 2022, https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/depression/symptoms.
4Miller, Korin. “How the Stress of Carrying Student Debt Can Impact Heart Health Later On.” Health, Health, 16 May 2022, https://www.health.com/condition/heart-health/student-loan-debt-heart-health#:~:text=Study%20results%20showed%20that%20those%20with%20student%20loan,bloodstream%20in%20response%20to%20inflammation%20in%20your%20body.
5Insler, Shannon. “Debt in the Bedroom: Survey Shows 32% of Student Loan Borrowers Report Decreased Libido.” Student Loan Hero, 19 July 2018, https://studentloanhero.com/featured/debt-bedroom-survey-shows-student-loan-borrowers-report-decreased-libido/.