Debt causes depression? Give us some credit…

Apparently, the latest threat to our mental wellbeing comes in the form of bank statements and credit-card bills. According to David Hayes, author of the snappily titled The Relationship Between Mental Wellbeing and Financial Management Among Older People, depression and suicidal feelings are ‘inextricably related’ to bankruptcies and run-away debt.

Andy Bell, deputy chief executive of the Centre for Mental Health, said the research should now be taken into account by the health services. But what does this mean? Will creditors be expected to write off bad debt in case it upsets someone? Will loans go unpaid if someone ends up suicidal?

There is no doubt that mountains of debt can be stressful, but people are resilient. We can always devise ways of getting through a ropey financial patch one step at a time. At worst, most of us take a pragmatic approach to debt and work out which debts should be paid off first – and which debts can be put off for a while longer. At best, we work out ways to earn extra cash, cut out the luxuries and load up on Lidl food until our bank balance has less of a Greece-shaped hole in it.

The process of paying off debt can be tough going, and often achingly dull, but accumulating debts does not automatically lead to crippling depression and suicidal tendencies. David Hayes may not be aware of this, but the vast majority of adults can and have dealt with hungry creditors without recourse to a sick note from the medical profession. It is, in all fairness, usually our fault if we bugger up our overdraft and people accept their penance like fully functioning adults. After all, debt is a financial and not a mental problem. Anyone suggesting otherwise is clearly a few pence short of a pound.

Neil Davenport is a writer and teacher based in London.

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