Pandemic-related financial stress causing health problems in NL
Financial stress due to the coronavirus crisis is causing health problems among Netherlands residents, including anxiety disorders, depression, and insomnia, Wijzer in Geldzaken, an advisory body for the Ministry of Finance, said in a report. The organization warned that the coronavirus health crisis is fueling an economic crisis, that could trigger a new health crisis, NOS reports.
"We are already seeing more worries and stress among self-employed workers and flex workers who can work fewer hours," Olaf Simonse of Wijzer in Geldzaken said. He expects a major increase in problematic debts once the government's coronavirus support packages come to an end.
The Ministry of Finance therefore believes now is the time to look at how financial stress-related health problems can best be treated, or prevented all together. "It is clear that we must pay attention to the relationship between money stress and health if we want people in a difficult financial situation to regain their resilience," caretaker Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra said. "People are sometimes very good at hiding their financial problems. But if you have more knowledge, you can see through it."
According to Simonse, the most important thing is to identify financial problems as quickly as possible. On average, people spend five years struggling with their debts before seeking debt counseling, he said. And the average debt increased to 15 thousand euros by that time. "Corona now offers an opportunity in this regard. Everyone was affected by it, you do not have to be ashamed of the consequences," he said.
Guven Yildiz, a GP in Schilderswijk in The Hague, estimated a 20 percent increase in financial stress-related health problems seen at her practice. "And the complaints are getting more serious," Yildiz said to NOS. She suggested setting up a municipal counter in health centers, especially in poorer neighborhoods. "Bringing up financial problems takes a lot of time, and I often don't have that time in 10 minute consultations."
LHV, the national association for general practitioners, also noted that there are not enough opportunities to refer people with money and other problems to people that can help them. "When assisting patients with debts, it is the GP's task to help them on their way towards assistance in the social domain," an LHV spokesperson said to the broadcaster. "A telephone number for a counter in the neighborhood with a welfare worker you know and who will help the patient further is important. But that is not available everywhere."
The Ministry of Public Health is running an experimental project in 26 municipalities in which it supports GPs with a manual and e-learning module on how to discuss money problems with patients.