10 Dec 2014

How Your Finances Affect Your Health, And Vice-Versa


Many people already know that the wealthy are healthy...or aren't they? In Nigeria, you hear such statements as "Diseases of the wealthy", "Diseases of the poor", but is there really a disease of the wealthy, or poor?

Does sickness differentiate between a poor person and a rich person? These days, can you still say obesity is strictly a disease of the rich? Can you confine malnutrition to the poor when we have malnourished Models who suffer from Anorexia and Bulimia Nervosa?

So what is the balance? Is there really a balance? WHO defines Health as "the state of complete physical, social and mental well being (though some authorities also add 'spiritual'), and not just the absence of infirmity or disease." And some others use health and happiness interchangeably. Is there a relationship?

Statistics show that as your income increases, your happiness levels too increase, but after a certain income level, anything higher will not lead to increase happiness (as depicted by the graph below).


In explaining the rationale for giving out 99% of his wealth to charity, Warren Buffet said "Were we to use 1% of my claim checks (Berkshire Hathaway stock certificates) on ourselves, neither our happiness nor our well-being would be enhanced. In contrast, that remaining 99% can have a huge effect on the health and welfare of others."

Therefore, mathematically, your income level is proportional to your happiness until a point after which, it does not affect it as such anymore. In a 2010 Princeton University study, it was put at $75,000 annually which reduced to $50,000 in the Marist Institute for Public Opinion poll. While the federal poverty level for a family of four in the USA is put at $22,050 annually.
But I wonder what the true equivalent will be for Nigerians (does any Nigerian university really do such researches sef?! lol)

Though I accept that your finances affect your health in that there is an income level that will ensure happiness, and theoretically, can make you healthy. But in reality, it isn't money that makes one healthy as much as your habits -cultivating healthy, personal habits.

While it is common knowledge that poverty is a terrible thing, and can result in ill health, my short stay in Kano made me realize that it is poverty of the mind/lack of information i.e. ignorance, that truly causes ill health and keeps one sick. And if anyone is truly poor, it is the person who does not know how to keep himself from falling sick, or doesn't know there is a cure for his sickness, therefore seeking it.

What does this imply? It means a 'rich man' can die of a disease that will also afflict a poor person just as much as a poor person can die of a disease that kills mostly rich persons. In other words, a Runway Model can be malnourished if she keeps herself from eating because of her figure (Anorexia Nervosa), or forcefully throws up her food (Bulimia Nervosa) because she wants to maintain her shape instead of eating healthy.

A poor person can die of lung cancer due to long-term cigarette smoking even though he can't 'afford' cigarettes. It isn't the money, it is the habit! It sometimes isn't the income level, it is desire to stay healthy that will make a person seek medical knowledge and adhere to it.

In the little time I have practiced medicine, I have seen doctors who have the knowledge but don't take their own advice. I have seen 'poor people' (-people who by your own standards are poor but aren't poor in their village/by their locality standard) who regularly came to me at the hospital for check up and were much healthier than many people in the cities. Some people know they should moderately exercise regularly for an optimum BP level but don't do it. Others are told to reduce their salt and spices intake, and ingestion of junk food, but they don't due to lack of disciplined will-power.

My take on how your finances can make you healthy is this:
  • Do everything you can to increase your income, and be comfortable. 
  • If you find yourself not being able to sleep well at night and needing to use sleep pills, reduce your investments, or invest in less risky ventures and start to give more to charity.
  • Start to pay off all debts now, and avoid new ones. You can use Dave Ramsey Debt Snowball method.
  • Your spiritual health too is important -ensure your relationship with God is right. Scientific studies have shown that spiritual/religious people tend to fall sick less, or recuperate faster when they are sick (especially because they have a more positive outlook to life due to reliance on an external all-knowing being).
  • Finally, have a desire to become healthy, and stay healthy -not an Obsessive-Compulsive Desire, just a motivating drive to remain healthy. Exercise when you should, rest when should, and eat healthy. Hang around friends/people who will encourage you, and go for regular medical check ups. If you are a lady, go for cervical screening, regularly check your breast for lumps. A guy should not engage in risky sexual behavior and should avoid excessive alcohol intake especially Bitters which can damage your kidneys (particularly the fake ones in the market now).
Even if you have a hereditary medical condition, such as Asthma, Sickle cell disease, or Cancer, it is not a death sentence, only a challenge. And you can surmount all of those challenges by being armed with the right medical knowledge, and doing the right things. This will ensure your health, or the condition of it, does not drain your pocket.

Sign up for health insurance, and always remain optimistic. You really have nothing to lose by being positive about your health and life, but so much more to lose when you are pessimistic.

My wish for you is that you be very wealthy, and also have the health to enjoy it.

Update (23/05/2018):
Apart from Dave Ramsey's Snowball method for reducing credit card debt, creditcards.com also has (what they call) "Balance Transfer Card".

This card can help you pay down debt faster by letting you move an existing balance to a new card with lower interest. They have a couple of great offers on their website to help you do this. Please, check it out.

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