It turns out that pain in your wallet might become true pain.
According to research in the journal Psychological Science, people who believe they have a tenuous financial outlook experience more physical pain than those who feel financially secure.
The findings indicated that it physically hurts to be economically insecure, said Eileen Chou of the University of Virginia, the lead author of the study. Six studies, Chou said, reveal that economic insecurity causes physical pain, reduces pain tolerance and can predict painkiller consumption.
Observance of two national trends—growing economic insecurity and more complaints of physical pain—led to Chou's research with colleagues Bidhan Parmar and Adam Galinsky. Predicting that the trends might be linked, the researchers hypothesized that a lack of economic security would cause people to feel a loss of control in their lives, which would lead to psychological processes associated with anxiety, fear and stress.
Several studies supported the link. In 2008, one consumer panel of 33,720 individuals found that households in which both adults were unemployed spent 20% more on over-the-counter painkillers, compared to households with at least one working adult. And an online study involving 187 participants showed that unemployment and financial insecurity correlated to reports of pain, which was measured by a four-item pain scale.
Further evidence from a lab-based study suggested economic insecurity may also be linked to pain tolerance.
Student participants who were told to think about an uncertain job market showed decreased pain tolerance, measured by how long they could comfortably keep their hand in a bucket of ice water. But students who were told to imagine entering a stable job market showed no change in pain tolerance.