Losing a job or struggling to pay the bills can certainly create stress. But new research has found it also physically hurts to be financially insecure.
The study, published online in Psychological Science, saw researchers perform six experiments looking at the different links between our level of economic insecurity and tolerance for physical pain.
They began by matching 2008 economic data for more than 33,000 American households with their consumption of over-the-counter painkillers. Results showed that households with higher levels of unemployment tended to spend more money on painkillers.
Researchers also had 114 participants hold their hands in ice water for as long as they could to identify their baseline pain tolerance, before asking them to read a statement about the current job market that was written to give them either a high or low level of insecurity.
Participants then wrote in third person about how the average university student might feel entering the job market, before returning to the ice bucket to see how their pain tolerance had changed. Results showed those manipulated to feel more secure had a high tolerance to pain at the end of the test.
Further experiments included asking participants to think about and describe - for at least a minute and a half - a time that they felt they had total control or a time in which they had no control. Afterwards they were asked how much pain they were in at that very moment.
Those who focused on a time they were out of control reported feeling more than double the pain of the other participants.
“Overall, the findings show that is physically hurts to be economically insecure,” the study’s authors writes.
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