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TIAA Institute Report Finds Ties Between Financial Stress and Mental Health

Leading employers are taking innovative approaches to support mental and financial health of employees

Employers can play an integral role in addressing mental health challenges caused by financial stress by implementing thoughtful, holistic, support services for employees. A new report by the TIAA Institute and High Lantern Group examined the correlation between financial stress and mental health, and how these stressors impact employee engagement at work.

A leading provider of secure retirements and outcome-focused investment solutions, TIAA understands the importance of achieving financial security, and the long-term implications for those who are unable to save for the future. According to a report from the Employee Benefit Research Institute, more than 40% of Americans are at risk of running out of their retirement savings – making achieving and maintaining financial security at every stage of life important, now more than ever.

According to TIAA Institute researchers, financial struggles such as worrying about debt, financial instability or the inability to meet basic needs can trigger stress or reduce resilience against mental health challenges. They also say high amounts of debt are often associated with anxiety, depression and anger, while persistent financial difficulties may contribute to feelings of hopelessness and despair, potentially leading to depression.

“The pandemic has heightened awareness about the prevalence of mental health challenges, with rates of poor mental health rising. Organizations should openly discuss mental health to help break down the stigma, and importantly take a leadership role in addressing this defining issue of our time,” said Claire Borelli, Chief People Officer, TIAA.

According to the report, 42% of U.S. adults say that money negatively impacts their mental health, and financial stress has resulted in a 34% increase in absenteeism and tardiness. Employees who are financially stressed are also five times more likely to be distracted by finances while at work. Financially stressed employees also miss about twice as many days each year compared to their unstressed counterparts.

“We live in a world in which greater numbers of people are increasingly struggling to create financial health. And one of the biggest drivers of mental health is a person’s sense of financial stability,” said Tara Giuliano, Chief Marketing Officer, Nuveen.

Poor mental health can also impair an individual’s cognitive capacity for evaluating options and risks when making key financial decisions – resulting in impulsive spending, poor financial planning and increased vulnerability to stress induced by short-term financial decisions. Among those facing mental health challenges: 93% felt they spent more than usual, 92% found it harder to make financial decisions, and 56% took out a loan they otherwise would not have.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 1 billion people or 12% of the population live with a mental health condition, and only 47% of them received mental health services in the last year.

Researchers say creating a holistic employee support framework that address both mental and financial well-being of employees may help to improve workplace productivity, employee engagement, and overall wellbeing. The report outlines specific strategies for employers to deploy impactful mental and financial health interventions.

At TIAA, employees have access to a comprehensive benefits package to support the physical, mental and financial wellness of employees and their families.

In addition to medical and dental insurance, TIAA employees also have access to onsite medical care and fitness facilities through Living Well Health and Wellness Centers, onsite mental health counselors and free mental health screenings, employee assistance programs and behavioral health care for children and teenagers.

As a retirement services provider, TIAA also offers employees access to an employer sponsored retirement plan, including an in-plan annuity and financial planning. The company also launched the My Smart Money Program which provides free financial assessments and resources for every stage of an individual’s financial journey from budgeting and debt management to retirement planning and preparing a will.

About TIAA

TIAA is a leading provider of secure retirements and outcome-focused investment solutions to millions of people and thousands of institutions. It is the #1 not-for-profit retirement market provider1, paid more than $5.6 billion in lifetime income to retired clients in 2022 and has $1.3 trillion in assets under management (as of 12/31/2023)2.

Learn more about TIAA

As of July 21, 2022. Based on data in PLANSPONSOR’s 403(b) 2022 DC Recordkeeping Survey, combined 457 and 403(b) data.

As of December 31, 2023 assets under management across Nuveen Investments affiliates and TIAA investment management teams are $1,284 billion.

TIAA Institute is a division of Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America (TIAA), New York, NY.

©2024 Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America-College Retirement Equities Fund, 730 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017


Annuity Alliance is not affiliated with TIAA. This article is for informational and educational purposes only. It should not be used to make a buying decision. If you would like to speak with a financial professional, please use Annuity Alliance’s contact form.