‘Money Sickness Syndrome’ doubles since credit crunch

Anxiety over the state of Britons’ personal finances has doubled in the last three years, according to newresearch.

Nine out of 10 adults are displaying symptoms arising from anxiety generated by feelings of poor financial understanding or control of personal finances, according to findings from an Axa survey.

The provider says the phenomenon, which it has dubbed ‘money sickness syndrome’, can cause symptoms such as increased anxiety, weight gain, depression, sleeplessness, reduced sex drive, palpitations and a loss of sense of humour. Axa says money sickness syndrome is affecting the productivity of UK workers.

The report shows that the whole workforce is affected, although 21 per cent of higher-level managers experience constant stress due to money worries, more than any other group, compared with just 9 per cent of skilled manual workers.  These managers are also the most likely to take no practical action, 35 per cent, to fix their financial problems although just 1 per cent seek the help of an independent financial adviser.

Skilled manual workers and junior managers/administrative staff are the most likely to turn to drink, with 20 per cent of both group doing so, and 21 and 19 per cent of each group eating more to cope with stress. 

The report also found that workers in senior management posts are concerned about mortgage repayments and job losses, more than any other group.

Middle managers are the most stressed overall, followed by those in supervisor roles and skilled manual workers.

Skilled workers head for the doctor to deal with their stress, with 6 per cent taking prescription drugs

Stress is one of the most common causes of workplace absence, and estimated to cost the economy £3.7 billion a year in lost productivity with 24 million feeling anxious and 1.4 million taking time off because of money worries[1].  

Report author Dr Roger Henderson says: ‘People at all income levels suffer Money Sickness Syndrome and the research shows that two thirds of people said they felt their levels of financial stress had worsened in the previous 12 months and almost half believed this would deteriorate further in the next 12 months.’

“For some people it may be the issue of making ends meet that is the problem but for others symptoms emerge from worrying about how to maintain a lifestyle that includes school fees and several foreign holidays.  Either way they need to take control.  The more in control you are the fewer the symptoms you are likely to experience.”

Eugene Farrell, AXA head of psychological health and well-being, says:  “Financial concerns affect all types of employee but is often ignored in the workplace.  Employers should think about how they can help employees get to grips with their financial problems before they get out of hand and make them too ill to work.”