South Africans say high levels of financial stress are having a negative impact on their health and they are increasingly concerned that they will not be able to pay all their expenses at the end of the month.
New data from South Africa’s largest debt adviser, Debtbusters, shows that half of South Africans (52%) are stressed or anxious about running out of money before the end of the month.
Data from the group, which includes a survey of more than 14,000 participants, shows an additional 70% of respondents said they were experiencing some form of financial stress.
Among them, 94% felt that it had an impact on their family life and 77% on their professional life. 76% thought it affected their health. In general, women were more stressed than men about their finances, family and work life, and health.
In particular, women were 30% more likely than men to be stressed about their health due to financial stress, and 20% more worried about paying their debt each month, compared to men.
Other key stats show:
- 40% of all respondents were spending more than half of their take-home pay to pay off their debts;
- 36% struggle to repay their debt each month;
- 27% are worried about inflation;
- 23% worry about unexpected expenses;
- 15% struggle to pay school fees;
- 12% worry about having enough to retire.
Reactions to financial stress ranged from cutting monthly expenses to selling personal items, with most people (43%) choosing to tighten their belts. A quarter of respondents were looking to increase their income by finding a better job. Not surprisingly, young people were more likely to seek higher paying jobs.
However, one in six (14%) said they felt stuck and didn’t know what to do.
When asked why they hadn’t taken action to alleviate financial stress, 39% said they “felt stuck” and 23% said they needed more time to think things through.
Psychotherapist and transactional analyst Diane Salters says people who seek debt counseling are likely to experience shame and fear, not think clearly, and be ready to fight, flee, or freeze.
“Those in freeze mode will likely feel stuck. Many answered this way in the survey. Those in flight mode will say they don’t need debt advice when the overall figures showing they are experiencing the effects of financial stress on their lives indicate that they do.
“If they freeze, they won’t do anything. Or they may be ready to flee or fight the debt collector, their partner or spouse or even their debt counselor.