Debt linked to depression, study shows

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Outstanding bills and mounting debt can get you down, but new research tries to quantify by exactly how much.

The Financial Security Project at Boston University has published research which found that for every 10 percent increase in the dollar amount of a person’s debt, his or her depressive symptoms increase by 14 percent.

The research found that debt isn’t necessarily tied to clinical depression – rather, the day-to-day blues experienced by otherwise healthy people.

The more severe psychological effects were shown to come from short-term debt, such as debt that comes from credit cards, overdue bills and short term loans. Long term debt, also described as "good debt" – such as home loans – was not found to cause a similar effect.

Researchers, however, did not take into consideration hardship caused by falling behind on mortgage repayments or other causes of mortgage stress.

How to get back in the black

Credit reporting and debt collection agency Dun and Bradstreet says the worst thing anyone suffering a debt hangover can do is ignore the problem.

"We often see a spike in the first half of the year, which results from credit used over the Christmas period," Dun and Bradstreet chief executive Gareth Jones told News Ltd.

"Apart from causing financial pain, this situation can also impact people’s ability to access future credit as the default stays on a credit report for up to five years."

His top tips for people who find themselves in a situation such as this include closing any bank accounts or credit facilities that are not essential. And recommends borrowers take immediate action.

"Don’t ignore letters or phone calls about debts. If you owe money, the best thing you can do is repay it."

"Avoid borrowing money to get out of one debt, and don’t use one credit facility to pay off another."

Meanwhile, financial advisers and counsellors say the first and best thing to do if you are in financial strife is to seek support.

"Act quickly and ask for help," said Financial Counselling Australia member Brian Harvey.

"Speak to a financial counsellor, family, partner, your bank," he told News Ltd.

Finally, people who are concerned that they may fall behind on repayments could benefit from a few simple strategies, says Michelle Hutchison, spokeswoman for RateCity.

"Refinancing could potentially free up a few hundred dollars a month in your budget, so shop around online at sites like RateCity where you can compare credit cards and other financial products and take control of your finances today."

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