Almost 90% of Survey Respondents Report a Negative Mental Health Impact

We’ve all said it: these bills are driving me nuts, these prices are making me crazy, and the rent is pushing me off the deep end. Most of us don’t mean it literally (most of the time at least) but we might not be that far from the truth.

Even before the pandemic and the subsequent surge in inflation, significant numbers of Americans endured regular financial stress. The number has only grown greater since.

But how is this stress affecting the mental health of Americans, by their own perceptions? We recently ran a survey on the impact of inflation and asked questions designed to answer that question.

Key Findings

  • Roughly 90% of respondents reported negative mental health consequences from financial stress.
  • Older and more affluent respondents reported negative consequences at a lower rate but large majorities still reported psychological stress.
  • Most respondents reported feeling stressed, anxious, or worried.
  • Paying bills was the largest single source of stress, followed by rising interest rates, debt payments, and affording food.
  • Roughly 45% of Americans are reducing spending on maintaining both mental and physical health.

Survey: The Impact of Inflation on Mental Health

How do Americans perceive the impact of inflation on their own mental states? We decided to ask, and to keep it simple we focused on just three questions.

Over the Past Six Months, How Has the Rising Cost of Living Made You Feel?

Only 9.75% of respondents reported no psychological stress. That number was higher among those over 60 years old (22.51%) and those earning over $150,000 (15.69%), but in every case, it was a small minority.

Between 50% and 60% of respondents across all income brackets reported feeling worried, stressed, or anxious over their finances. 10% to 12% of all groups reported depression and between 10% and 20% reported anger.

Almost 5% selected “other”, with the most commonly cited cause being “all of the above”.

What Were the Specific Causes of these Feelings?

The exact question asked was “Would you say that any of the following things had a negative impact on your mental health over the past six months? Check all that apply”.

Many respondents selected more than one answer. Most people were directly concerned with basic necessities:

  • 40.67% were concerned with paying bills,
  • 30.86% were worried about being able to buy food,
  • 29.24% were stressed over buying fuel for a car,
  • 29.76% were troubled over housing costs (paying the rent or mortgage),
  • 33.7% cited credit card debt as a source of stress.

There were distinct differences in the specific causes for concern among different income groups.

51.35% of those earning under $50,000 worried about paying bills, while 40.52% of those earning over $150,000 were stressed over investment losses.

Across all income groups, though, 20% to 35% worried about paying for fuel for the car, 25% to 40% worried about credit card debt, and 30% to 35% were affected by rising interest rates.

There was less variation by age group, though respondents over 60 were somewhat less concerned overall (22.51% selected “none of the above”, more than any other group) and most likely to be concerned over investment losses.

Overall, while older respondents and those with higher incomes expressed lower levels of stress, the levels reported were still quite high.

Are Americans Cutting Back on Coping Mechanisms?

Americans are more aware of mental health than ever before, and they have embraced a variety of responses, from therapy and medication to exercise and meditation. Many of these responses require money, adding additional financial stress.

We wondered if inflation was forcing Americans to reduce their spending on maintaining both mental and physical health, so we asked.

Did you make or plan to make cuts in your spending on any of the following

The answers indicate that our respondents place a high priority on this type of spending. 54.87% had no plans to cut back on any of these categories. 27.05% planned to cut back on gym or fitness memberships, 15.56% on mental health apps and subscriptions, and 14% on therapy.

Only 8.97 % planned to reduce health insurance spending and 12.27% planned to reduce spending on medical subscriptions.

It’s important to recognize, of course, that only people who are currently spending on (for example) gym memberships or therapy can consider cutting back on this spending!

There were few differences by income. People earning over $150,000 were most likely to be cutting back on gym memberships (they may also be the ones most likely to have gym memberships) and least likely to cut back on therapy.

Respondents aged 18-45 were most likely to make some cuts in this area. 40% to 45% expected not to reduce spending, compared to 60% for ages 45-60 and 69.63% for those over 60. People over 60 are least likely to cut back on apps and subscription use, possibly because they are less likely to be using these services in the first place.

The Link Between Financial Stress and Mental Health

There are well-documented connections between financial stress and mental health issues. A large study titled “The Relationship Between Financial Worries and Psychological Distress” concluded that “higher financial worries were significantly associated with higher psychological distress”, and also that “the association between financial worries and psychological distress was more pronounced among the unmarried, the unemployed, lower-income households, and renters than their counterparts”.

Other observers note that just as financial stress makes psychological stress worse, the opposite is also true: psychologically stressed people find it harder to earn income and make good decisions. This creates a vicious cycle in which financial and psychological stress build on each other.

About This Survey

The survey responses were collected in October 2022, via SurveyMonkey, with a total of 1,549 participants from across the USA. Respondents represent a national sample balanced by census data of age, gender, income level, and region. The survey had a margin of error +/- 4.159% with a 95% confidence level.

Copyright Information: All the data included in this study is available via public domain. This means all statistics may be copied without permission. We do, however, appreciate citation as the source via a link.

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