More than three-fifths of Americans losing sleep over finances

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Nearly two-thirds of Americans are losing sleep over at least one financial concern, according to a survey released Thursday by CreditCards.com.

The survey, which compiled responses from 3,600 people across the country, asked participants to identify which of a handful of financial concerns keeps them up at night, and found that 62 percent of the U.S. loses sleep over one or the other. Two-fifths of respondents said retirement savings were a primary stressor, while nearly a third (31 percent) lost sleep over educational expenses for either themselves or a family member.

"Retirement is the biggest worry, but worries about education costs are really growing quickly. And at this rate, paying for school could soon be America's biggest worry," says Matt Schulz, a senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com. "Education costs have just grown so quickly in such a short amount of time, and it's something that impacts everybody."

About 29 percent of those surveyed were anxious about health care or insurance payments. Mortgage and rent payments stressed out 27 percent of respondents, while credit card debt left another 21 percent tossing and turning. A particularly strung-out 6 percent of respondents – three-fifths of whom had a high school education or less – said they were stressed by all five listed concerns.

"Overall, we're definitely losing less sleep than we did during the Great Recession," Schulz says, noting that the last such survey from his service was published in 2009. "But we're not resting quite as peacefully as we did before that."

In 2009, 69 percent of survey respondents said they lost sleep over one financial concern or another, while financial concerns reportedly kept only 56 percent of Americans awake at night in 2007 – the first year the survey was conducted.

"People tend to lose sleep over things that feel out of their control, so the best way to take some of that control back is to take some sort of action," Schulz says. "It can even be kind of a small thing. Maybe you make a budget. Maybe you cut back on some expenses."

Republicans appeared to be the most mellow respondents to the survey. More than two-fifths of self-identified GOP members (41 percent) did not have any financial concerns that kept them up at night, compared with only about a third of Democrats (35 percent) who said the same. About half of individuals who earn at least $75,000 annually said they didn't lose sleep over their finances.

"They say that money can't buy you love or happiness. But, according to our survey, it can apparently buy you a better night's sleep," Schulz says. "The highest income bracket of folks in our survey ... in virtually every category were least likely to be losing sleep."

A separate study released earlier this year by the American Psychological Association found that nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of American adults report feeling stressed about money at least some of the time. And nearly a quarter (22 percent) reportedly feel "extreme stress" over finances.

"Regardless of economic climate, money and finances have remained the top stressor since our survey began in 2007," Norman Anderson, the association's CEO and executive vice president, said in a statement accompanying the report. "It appears that the idea of living with stress higher than what we believe to be healthy and dealing with it in ineffective ways continues to be embedded in our culture."

Average stress levels have come down since the Great Recession, but money concerns still trump anxiety felt over work, family responsibilities and health concerns, according to the association's report. Only 12 percent of respondents to the survey said their perceived level of stress over money had decreased in the past year, while 29 percent said they were more stressed about finances than they were a year ago.

"Research also shows that financial struggles strain individuals' cognitive abilities, which could lead to poor decision-making and may perpetuate their unfavorable financial and health situations," the report said. "Nearly one-third of Americans (32 percent) say that their finances or lack of money prevent them from living a healthy lifestyle."

Stress has been linked to a cavalcade of health problems in recent years, including high blood pressure, obesity, depression, anxiety, headaches, stomach problems and, of course, trouble sleeping. Still another study released earlier this year by business professors at Harvard and Stanford universities found up to 142,000 deaths each year and $190 billion in medical costs could be linked to work-related stress alone.

"People spend a lot of their waking hours at work," the report said. "It is, therefore, scarcely surprising that the work environments created by employer decisions can have profound effects on mental and physical well-being and, consequently, morbidity, mortality and health care costs."

Copyright 2015 U.S. News & World Report

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