Close to 1 in 3 Australians suffer from significant financial stress, which has for the first time been comprehensively examined in new research by CoreData.

The results show financial stress leads to anti-social behaviour, relationship conflict and breakdown, isolation, sleep loss and symptoms of depression.

Most of us are aware of financial stress; the phrase appears daily in media coverage of money issues. But how money worries diminish Australians’ quality of life hasn’t been fully understood – until now.

But how money worries diminish Australians’ quality of life hasn’t been fully understood – until now. Australian start-up Financial Mindfulness commissioned global research firm CoreData in July 2017 to question 1000 Australians about what financial stress does to their relationships and their physical and physical and mental health.

CoreData dug deeper into the issue than anyone ever has in Australia, creating the first ever personal Financial Stress Index, based on responses to 17 questions.

The results show nearly one in three people (30.4%) are suffering from significant financial stress and they are struggling compared to those who are not financially-stressed. Women were more likely to be more financially-stressed than men (33.4% v 27.6%).

Dr Nicola Gates, chief scientific advisor for Financial Mindfulness, said significant financial stress was “a lot more common than I had believed”.

“Worse 80% of them report severe discomfort – psychological and physical discomfort as a result,” Dr Gates said. “Financial stress is an issue that needs to be talked about in order to reduce stigma and shame, and to bring about intervention.” 35 cent of respondents suffering financial stress admitted using drugs or alcohol to manage negative feelings associated with personal finances during the past month. That level of abuse was a remarkable 18 times higher than people not under financial stress.

More than 66 per cent of those suffering financial stress said money worries directly led to feelings of fear, anxiety and/or depression – three times higher than people unaffected by financial stress.

“Financial stress, like other stress, is a significant threat to our mental health and can lead to mental illness,” Dr Gates said.

“For example, financial stress can cause a person to feel shame and develop a sense of failure which may lead them to become depressed.”

One of the most surprising findings was that financial stress is felt broadly, and not only experienced in low-income households. Respondents on salaries of up to $150,000 a year with investments of up to $750,000 were only marginally less financially-stressed than those who earned up to $90,000 with investments of up to $350,000.

The findings also showed that financially-stressed Australians reported:

  • Their physical health was affected nearly six times as much as those not financially stressed (60.8% v 10.5%).
  • Arguing about money with family/partner nearly four times as much (75.8% v 21.4%).
  • Feeling at least considerably irritable / having angry outbursts over their money twenty times more (52.2% v 2.6%).
  • Having problems sleeping at eight times the rate of those not financially stressed (71.3% v 8.7%).
  • More than a third (35.2%) used alcohol or drugs to deal with financial stress.
  • 52.4% have trouble concentrating (vs. 3.3%), 16 times higher.
  • 37.8% have been hurtful towards themselves or others, 17 times higher.
  • Nearly nine out of 10 (88.0%) avoid social functions reasonably often, four times higher.
  • Worrying about money “most of the time”, at six times the rate of those not stressed (71.0% v 11.7%)


The results of this press release appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Financial Standard.

Peter Vincent, 13th November 2017.