This Is Our Greatest Financial Fear

Image Credit: Kayoko Hayashi/iStock/GettyImages

It would be nice if a global pandemic meant we didn't have to worry about money anymore — isn't one all-consuming fear enough? — but unfortunately, most of us aren't that lucky. The staggering economic losses, coming on both the macro and micro scale, include mass unemployment, evictions, skyrocketing income inequality, and shortages of food and goods. We're scared of a lot of things these days, and rightly so. One particular fear, however, is more prevalent than ever before.

Gallup and the nonprofit WestHealth have just released a new survey on the effects of high costs in health care for Americans. The findings are pretty stark: Fully half of Americans fear that a major health event could lead them to file for bankruptcy. When you break down the demographic data, this worry is far greater among marginalized minorities, as well as young people. This particular fear has also grown more prevalent among all groups. Survey responses jumped to higher proportions across the board, sometimes as much as 22 points.

Even before COVID-19, we were a mess about our finances, especially when it comes to anxieties about debt and precarity. The pandemic, however, has been stressing us out on a scale so monumental, new research shows that rates of depression among U.S. adults have tripled since it began. The good news, at least, is that while it's natural to be scared of financial hardship, there are ways through it — and out. And if the pandemic winds up triggering total economic collapse, well… it turns out there are strategies to get through that too.