According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Virginia and Columbia University, people feel more physical pain when they think that they are not financially secure. The study, published in Psychological Science, suggests that this may stem from feeling a lack of control over one’s life.

The psychological mechanisms related to anxiety, fear, and stress are activated when a person feels a lack of control over his life. These share the same processes to pain. In 2008, a study of 33,720 individuals showed that a household with unemployed adults would spend 20 percent more on painkillers than those households where at least one adult is working.

Another study conducted online to 187 individuals revealed that unemployment and economic insecurity were correlated with pain based on their four-item pain scale. Another study found that individuals experienced twice the physical pain when they recalled a time of financial instability than those who recalled a period of economic stability.



Experts also link pain tolerance with economic insecurity. The researchers observed the participants by the length that they could dip their hand comfortably in a bucket of ice water. They found out that the students became less tolerant to pain when they thought about a poor job market. Moreover, the person’s subjective perception of his own financial stability outweighs other people’s opinion of his economic status.

The researchers have accounted other factors including the participants’ age, employment status, and negative emotion. The findings have explained the link between social phenomena, psychological processes, and physical experience, which will provide valuable information to other researchers and policymakers to lower the pain experienced.

“Overall, our findings reveal that it physically hurts to be economically insecure,” says lead researcher Eileen Chou of the University of Virginia. “Results from six studies establish that economic insecurity produces physical pain, reduces pain tolerance, and predicts over-the-counter painkiller consumption.”