Money can’t buy happiness but it does make life easier, and now it’s been proven that sorting out your finances can be good for your mental health too.

If you’ve ever dreaded opening a credit card statement or been too scared to face your bank balance because you know your spending has been out of control, you’ll understand the emotions that can be innately tied to your finances.

A study conducted by Scottish Widows for Mental Health Awareness Week this week shows money can give us more than just that dreaded sinking feeling: one in six people have suffered psychological problems as a result of money concerns.

Worrying about money can have a domino effect on relationships, health and work. Apparently, retirement represents one financial area that can really get us down.

Three in 10 people surveyed said just thinking about retirement makes them stressed. A clinical experiment observing men and women, aged between 34 and 45, showed that failing to plan for the future can have a big psychological impact.

Those who took part in the experiment were wired up to machines that monitor stress. They were shown two films: one of a happy retirement and the other about a retirement spent in poverty.

Unsurprisingly, those watching the film about poverty in old age showed signs of stress. Close to 78% of viewers said it made them worry about how much they needed to save for retirement. After just three and a half minutes of viewing, 90% of participants said they would review how much they were saving towards retirement. They then typically pledged to increase their pension contributions by between 2% and 5%.

For those who are not in the habit of saving, it is stressful to think about what our futures might look like. No-one wants to picture themselves living in poverty, or working until they drop. But do you know what’s more stressful than thinking about a future in poverty? Living it.

It’s uncomfortable to think about money, especially when we feel we don’t have enough of it. But burying your head in the sand about any financial shortcomings will only make the situation worse.

Getting your finances on track

In the past, I’ve had periods where my spending was out of control and I knew that I was making bad financial decisions: it was easier to ignore the uneasy feelings and carry on spending than deal with them.

However, I’ve always come down to earth with a bump in those situations; maybe I needed emergency money that I didn’t have because I’d been spending recklessly, or I finally caught a glimpse of the bank statement I’d been avoiding.

The immediate feelings I experienced were of guilt and embarrassment. But once I’d yanked my head out of the sand and started to sort out my finances, I began to feel in control.

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