Money & Health

by Christiane Northrup, M.D.


Dozens of studies have documented the link between our state of health, our level of education, and our socioeconomic status. In short, those with the most education and the highest socioeconomic status are those who, statistically speaking, are the most likely to enjoy healthy lives. If you currently lack formal education or high socioeconomic status, however, don’t despair. We all know individuals with plenty of money and education who are neither healthy nor happy. Although many people don’t see it this way, there really is no reason why you can’t improve your current situation.

Here’s a story I recall from my practice about a woman whose health was negatively affected by her misconceptions around money:

For years, Mary, age 46, was convinced that her husband was better at finances than she was. He paid all the bills and spent hours each week at his computer doing so. Unfortunately, this process seemed to fill him with a mixture of satisfaction, dread, and worry. His mantra became, “There’s never enough. We are overspending.” Increasingly, she felt influenced by his fear and also equally paralyzed by it because she began to feel worse and worse asking her husband for money for anything but the barest of essentials.

Mary felt the only way she could help solve the problem was to spend less. But that never seemed to make much of a difference, and her husband continued to complain, “There’s never enough.” Finally, after many moments of soul searching, Mary got a job in sales with a good salary and decent benefits. She felt good to be adding money to the family coffers, and even though she hated her job, she felt it was worth it because of the security it provided. Now she and her husband were making more money than ever, yet Mary’s husband kept repeating his mantra.

Even though Mary was bringing home a paycheck, and had become a much more empowered woman in the world, her health began to suffer. She felt more and more tired. Her joints ached. One Monday morning, when she got out of bed, her “back went out.” Soon Mary was going to the chiropractor weekly. Luckily her job’s health insurance paid the bills and her manager changed her job from the sales force to computer work. But soon thereafter, Mary began to get numbness and tingling in her hands and was diagnosed as having carpal tunnel syndrome.

After asking Mary what was going on her life, it became clear that her key issues were money and health. It is fairly well documented that worry about money is associated with lower back pain and a whole host of other health problems. In Mary’s situation, however, the real issue was that she was participating in an unhealthy pattern of behavior in which she handed over her money (and power) to others. Mary was unconsciously following the rules that she, her mother, and her grandmother had all followed in their conventional 1950’s-like marriages where “father knew best.”

This may have worked well earlier on in the marriage when the kids were young, but now the wisdom of Mary’s body was telling her that she had come to the end of the road with her current financial and emotional arrangement. She began to follow the steps below, and over a few years, became a much healthier, happier, and more empowered individual. But I have to warn you. At first, her husband was not pleased with her newfound sense of herself or her growing financial independence. During this time, they found, like almost every couple I know, that they needed to completely re-work their agreements with each other in the second half of their lives.

Mary and her husband eventually reached a new level of understanding. She followed the steps below, they set up new accounts and did some brief couple’s therapy, and became healthier and happier both individually and as a couple.



Spiritual and Holistic Options

Here’s how you can create health through money wisdom:

Step One: Get a source of money that is your own and that is in a bank account in your name only that is not monitored by a spouse or other family member. If you feel that you need to keep this account secret, you have to ask yourself what that means about your relationship. If you have to keep secrets about money to avoid being controlled, do you have a true partnership?

Step Two: Ask yourself the following questions: Do I have the courage to be rich? Can I manage my finances on my own without my husband, or father, or brother, or other man taking care of the details? Have I developed enough inner wisdom and self-confidence to trust my instincts about my own money?

Step Three: Get a job that engages your creativity, intelligence, and talents. If your financial situation is such that you don’t have to work for money, you still need to engage in some activity that challenges you and uses your gifts and talents. Many volunteer positions fulfill this need. If you do work, decide how much money from your salary will go into the household account, but make sure you pay yourself, too. Set aside a fixed amount for you to invest for yourself or spend in other ways.

Step Four: Create a budget, and make sure it allows for purchases that are frivolous in nature. These splurges should bring you a great deal of fulfillment. Like a good cup of cappuccino or fresh flowers, they need not be expensive items. Just choose things that nourish your spirit.

Step Five: Take note of your spending patterns—they ‘re like food cravings. If you find yourself having “spending cravings” this is usually a sign that some other important “nutrient” in your life is missing. We usually compensate ourselves lavishly to distract ourselves from pain and deprivation somewhere else in our lives. It has also been my experience that women who are in recovery from eating disorders such as bulimia often transfer their binging behavior to shopping.

Learn More — Additional Resources

Last Updated: October 12, 2006

Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Christiane Northrup, M.D., is a visionary pioneer and a leading authority in the field of women’s health and wellness. Recognizing the unity of body, mind, and spirit, she empowers women to trust their inner wisdom, their connection with Source, and their ability to truly flourish.

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