Is there a link between having a low credit score and suffering from poor overall health? A few recent studies seem to suggest that is the case. In one, researchers tracked 1,000 participants over the course of multiple decades. They found that those study participants with a low credit score were more likely to be in poor health, while the participants who had a higher credit score were more likely to be in good overall health.

A poor credit score affects well-being

One reason a simple number could have such a long-term, widespread effect is because a low credit score can be an obstacle in a lot of situations. For instance, it may be more difficult for someone with a low credit score to obtain affordable financing to get into better living conditions, to get a car loan for get transportation to a job or to obtain student loans in order to achieve a good education. Even basic necessities such as gas and water may be difficult to get hooked up, especially without a large deposit first. Some employers will even do a credit check and choose a candidate who has a higher credit score. All of these things can add up, indirectly resulting in a lower quality of life.

Stress about well-being leads to health problems

But the correlation is not just indirect. Financial problems can directly cause stress and anxiety. This can negatively affect cognitive functioning, performance at work and sleep schedules. Even relationships could suffer: Money is the number one thing that couples fight about. Coping with the constant stress linked to financial problems will eventually take a toll on one’s health. Anxiety has been linked to a number of conditions, including heart disease, weight gain, digestive problems, high blood pressure and insomnia.

Maintain health by raising credit score

The key to taking control of one’s finances is to set a few goals, then to break these goals into small, manageable steps. Here are a few steps to help someone with a low credit score ensure that it does not affect their health:

  1. Check your credit score to know where you are starting from, and to look for mistakes. If you see an error, immediately file a dispute with the credit reporting agency whose file it is in.
  2. Map out a monthly budget and set enough money aside to cover all of your expenses as soon as you get your paycheck.
  3. Set up reminders to always pay your bills on time; if you have a sufficient balance in your bank account, set up autopay to ensure they are paid on time each month. This will go a long way towards improving your credit score.
  4. Prioritize your debt. You can either focus on accounts with smaller balances or on accounts with higher interest rates first.
  5. Consider consolidating your debt in order to make one large monthly payment instead of several smaller payments.
  6. Contact your creditors and ask them to waive late fees or decrease the amount of your minimum monthly payment.
  7. Consider using a “credit piggybacking” service to improve your score. This will allow you to reap the benefits of a high credit line, low balance credit card on your credit score without having access to the credit line itself. It is the fastest way to increase your low credit score.

Your financial situation should never cause you to feel stressed or create health problems for you. If it does, it is time to assess your situation and take the necessary steps to get out of debt and boost your credit score. Simply beginning to address your financial problems and creating a plan of action will give you the peace of mind you need.