Financial Stress Is a Leading Catalyst for Suicide—Here’s How You Can Find Help

Financial hardship is a major risk factor for suicide.

Research has shown that people who experience stress from financial issues are 20 times more likely to attempt suicide than those who do not experience this type of stress. What's more, financial hardship is (unfortunately) a common problem. In one study, over 50% of the participants reported having two or more financial stressors.

A report noted that the average American is $52,940 in debt. This debt includes:

  • Car loans
  • Credit card debt
  • Money owed for mortgages and leases
  • Personal loans
  • Student loan debt

While many people are keenly aware of how financial stress impacts our lives, it can also have physiologic effects—causing everything from headaches to abdominal discomfort. But most people don't know that financial hardship is a major risk factor for suicide.

Financial Hardship Is a Major Risk Factor for Suicide, Experts Say , unhappy beauty girl having bad trouble and getting depression illness sitting on wooden floor daydreaming in money background
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What Causes Financial Stress?

One study identified a correlation between suicide and four financial stressors:

  • Debt
  • Homelessness
  • Low income
  • Unemployment

The study explored how these stressors play a major role in suicides.

In fact, researchers found that the risk of suicide grew with each added stressor—and those who experienced all four financial stressors were 20 times more likely to make an attempt.


Homelessness is directly related to financial issues. Mental health conditions are one of the factors that can contribute to homelessness. Homelessness can also contribute to someone developing a mental health condition. Either way, people who experience homelessness often have mental health conditions.

Homelessness can also lead to problems such as:

  • Difficulty staying safe
  • Limited access to healthcare
  • Problems getting food
  • Stress
  • Violence


People who are experiencing unemployment may be experiencing financial difficulties due to a lack of steady income and/or depleting savings. Unemployment can lead to negative mental health effects such as:

Debt and Low Income

The study found that both financial debt and low income were associated with suicidal ideations and attempts.

Research shows that a person's overall health and well-being can improve if their debt is canceled or reduced. There is also evidence that a higher income is associated with an improvement in health for people of low and moderate income.

Unfortunately, canceling debt and obtaining a higher income isn't an easy thing to do, but financial education and counseling may help reduce the burden of debt and low income.

How Does Financial Stress Cause Mental Health Issues?

Financial stress is a risk factor for suicide. Stress, of any kind, can lead to symptoms of depression and anxiety. Having loans and other debt can increase anxiety, distress, and depression levels—all of which can put someone at risk for suicidal ideations.

Unfortunately, mental health conditions and financial stress reinforce one another—people who experience mental health conditions are more likely to experience financial hardship and financial stress can contribute to mental health problems. Mental health conditions can also make it difficult to recover from financial stress.

It's a loop that can be difficult to get out of—but there are options.

Financial hardship can make people up to 20 times more likely to make an attempt on their lives.

What To Do About Financial Stress

If you are struggling with debt, homelessness, unemployment, and/or feelings of hopelessness, know that you are not alone—there is both help and hope.

Reaching out is not a sign of weakness and does not mean you have failed as a provider, parent, or spouse. Rather, it means that you are able to recognize that your financial situation is putting you under stress and that you want to address it.

It's important to take a multifaceted approach: one that addresses the financial stressors and the impact it has on your mental health.

Seek Mental Health Counseling

The first step is getting help. Talking to a mental healthcare provider about the thoughts or anxiety symptoms you may be experiencing may be helpful in dealing with financial stress.

If it feels like an overwhelming catastrophe, you can work through and process this with a trained mental health clinician who can help you learn ways to reduce those overwhelming thoughts.

Speaking to someone you trust can help you ease the weight of it, gain insight into ways to manage it, and create a plan.

Seek Financial Counseling

You may consider calling a financial advisor or counselor to strategize potential solutions or options going forward. You can find free or low-cost counseling services at places like:

  • Credit unions
  • Extension offices
  • Nonprofit agencies
  • Religious organizations

When you see a counselor, they will discuss your finances with you and help you create a personalized plan and budget. They can also help you find programs on money management.

Even if you have a friend or loved one to talk to for emotional support, it is always a good idea to take practical advice from an expert.

Learn How to Budget

A financial counselor can help you learn how to budget, but if you want to try it on your own, it's an important skill to have in order to manage your money.

The easier it becomes to manage your money, the less stress you'll take on. Here are the basic steps for making a budget:

  1. Write down your expenses.
  2. Write down your income (how much money you make).
  3. Subtract your expenses from your income.
  4. If the amount is less than zero, it will likely be necessary to try to make some changes to your spending.
  5. Look at your budget and see where you spend your money, where you could spend less, and what you want to contribute more money to (housing, savings, debt, etc.)

The information in your budget can help you better prepare for your expenses.

When To Seek Emergency Help

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts due to stress of debt or monetary hardship, seek emergency help—call 988 (the suicide hotline), 911, or get to your nearest emergency department. Also call someone you trust—a friend, family member, co-worker, or clergy person.

Looking for support?

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741-741.


A Quick Review

Financial hardship is a common issue in the United States. Financial stresses—including homelessness, unemployment, debt, and low income—can have a negative impact on a person's mental health leading to anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions.

Mental health conditions can put someone at risk for suicidal thoughts and attempts. If you or someone you know struggling with finances, you can seek help through a mental health counselor and a financial counselor, or you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for immediate support.

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