A yearly estimate of around $250 billion in losses can be attributed to the effects of financial stress, according to new research. Employees spend an average of 13 hours per month worrying about fiscal security, and while employers are keen to focus on financial wellness programmes, earlier studies highlight that low wages are the key driver of stress in workers’ lives.
The effects of prolonged stress on human beings can be profound. Stress has been documented to reduce the ability of the immune system to fight off bacteria and viruses, resulting in increased likelihood and duration of illness. If the stress becomes chronic, a range of long term physical and mental conditions can come about, even restructuring of the brain, resulting in impairments in working and spatial memory as well as increased aggression.
A range of factors impact a persons’ stress levels, including employment. A new study by consulting firm Mercer aims to identify the business cost of stress on US workers. The study, titled ‘Inside Employee Minds: Financial Wellness’, also looks at ways to mitigate stress, with analysis based on responses from 3,000 US employees.
The headline result of the study is that the economic impact of financial stress on US employees stands at $250 billion annually, or around 5% of the total US payroll. The study notes that, while not only affecting those on a lowest pay, somewhat predictably, financial stress does disproportionately impact those with the least income. In terms of those in the lowest two financial wellness groups, 86% with household incomes under $100,000 – well above median household income of $55,775 – are in the bottom two financial wellness groups.
Low pay remains a key issue in the US, with an earlier Mercer report noting that the biggest issue cited by employees in relation to stress at work is low-pay, followed by inadequate staffing and company culture. Inequality in the US also remains rife, while corporate profits have continued to run well above that of the previous period and the top income group (top quintile) increased its income by an average of more than $65,000.