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Financial wellbeing & mental health: how money worries weaken relationships

Poor financial wellbeing negatively impacts mental health in a number of ways. One is related to interpersonal bonds. Interpersonal bonds are highly correlated with good mental health and so anything that affects the strength of interpersonal bonds damages mental health. Poor financial wellbeing has been shown to damage interpersonal bonds. Let’s explore how and why.

Mental wellbeing: the importance of interpersonal bonds

Relationships are critical to good mental health. This is true in all domains – family relationships, social relationships and of course workplace relationships. When our relationships worsen in a particular domain, we’re less able to function healthily within that domain.

Again, this is true of all domains and is of course hardest the more time we spend in those domains and the more we value the relationships within them. When your relationship with your partner gets worse, you feel it most acutely. There’s also a reinforcement effect here too. Weakened bonds tend to lead to further weakening and a spiralling effect until corrective action is taken.

Conversely, good relationships provide validation to our emotions and our needs, normalise our feelings and support our goals. Different people want different things from relationships, but on the universal level relationships tend to shore up our mental health because they protect and nurture our sense of humanity and place in the world.

How poor financial wellbeing weakens interpersonal bonds

Gallup study found that those suffering from poor financial wellbeing rated their relationships more weakly. Why is this?

It could be for many reasons. For example, those with poor financial wellbeing may be more likely to have a ‘scarcity mindset’ focused on acquiring essential resources, leaving less headspace for oxytocin (the bonding hormone) and pro-social activities that strengthen bonds.

It could also be related to empathy – we need to empathise with others to bond with them and this is harder to do when we are feeling vulnerable. Finally, the stress associated with poor financial wellbeing may contribute to a constant state of flight-or-fight, an us-v-them environment that is not conducive to bonding.

Why this is an employer’s problem

Every industry is dependent on good relationships between employees. Whether it’s good relationships leading to smoother rostering and better frontline impact in the hospitality industry or good relationships leading to better creative outcomes in media agencies, it is a universal fact across the workplace.

Taking action on financial wellbeing is important, but unless you tackle the root causes of financial wellbeing rather than the symptoms you’re unlikely to make much headway.

Why? Because unless you tackle the root causes, people with poor financial wellbeing will have better days than others, but will not experience the long-term drop in stress that prevents the negative impact on interpersonal bonds.