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American Workers Agree Financial Juggling is #1 Stressor – Unpaid Medical Bills Major Culprit

Dealing with debt, savings, insurance, budgeting is causing employees to miss work, not get enough sleep and more likely to be frequently anxious or stressed out. 

According to new survey, past-due medical bills were the leading indicator of workplace absenteeism, with one in eight workers reporting struggling with unpaid medical bills. In addition, 84% of the people with unpaid medical bills are financially unwell, two thirds don’t get enough sleep and they miss an average of three additional days of work annually. More well-known forms of debt, like student loans and credit cards, were not a significant cause of employees missing work.

The study of 9,000 workers and conducted by Fidelity Investments in collaboration with researchers from the Stanford Center on Longevity and Cornell University, reveals employees were most likely to report high levels of stress caused by their job (47%), saving for the future (34%), paying off debt (33%) and their weight (30%). Family and friends were rarely a source of stress; in fact, having multiple close relationships is a leading indicator of overall well-being. In addition, sleep, coworkers and an individual’s boss were not significant sources of stress. 

Interestingly, when compared with workers who were not struggling with debt, workers with debt challenges are very unlikely to be in “excellent” health (only 14% of those struggling were in excellent health, compared with 35% of workers without debt issues); are significantly less likely to get enough sleep (35% vs. 54%) and are significantly more likely to be frequently stressed or anxious (46% vs. 26%).

Fidelity says taking a holistic view of financial and health wellness, in addition to work and life, provides a more complete assessment of employee well-being, which can help employers provide the right benefits to the right person at the right time. 

Fidelity also notes financial wellness programs have gone a long way toward helping workers to create a budget they can live with and have helped many employees consolidate and/or minimize debt.

Survey participants represented the full working age range (21-75, median of 45) and were distributed fairly evenly by generation (28% Millennial, 36% Gen X and 33% Baby Boomer) and gender (46% male, 54% female). About two-thirds (67%) had a college degree or higher.

Additional details on the survey results are highlighted in Fidelity Viewpoints


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