A couple at a computer in distress

This article originally appeared on Debt.com

Staying debt-free can bring you peace of mind and literally keep you healthy.

Finance site Bankrate partnered with mental health information news site Psych Central to quiz Americans on how money impacts their mental health.

Pollsters asked just under 2,500 U.S. adults how their money woes made them feel psychologically. Nearly half (48 percent) of respondents said their debt made them stressed, worried, or anxious.

“These survey results are sobering as financial stress impacts us all,” said Faye McCray, editor-in-chief of Psych Central. “Often, we equate our financial situation with our worthiness, and that may prevent us from seeking support when the worry and anxiety becomes too overwhelming.”

Further research shows when the stress does become too overwhelming, it can be a sign of an undiagnosed medical condition…

“Debt-stress syndrome”

Stress causes the body to release hormones called cortisol and adrenaline, according to WebMD. The body’s physical response is an increase in heart rate and blood pressure.

A 2013 landmark study revealed debt can lead to serious mental and physical health problems. In more extreme cases even death.

Medical researchers from Northwestern University conducted analyzed data, behavior, and physical symptoms of 8,400 young adults, ages 24 to 32 years old. The participants with higher debt had higher rates of stress, depression, and higher blood pressure. Many doctors refer to this as “debt-stress syndrome”

According to the study, “those with higher debt were found to have a 1.3 percent increase in diastolic blood pressure – which is clinically significant.” Researchers determined those participants faced a higher risk of hypertension and stroke.

“You wouldn’t necessarily expect to see associations between debt and physical health in people who are so young,” said Elizabeth Sweet, lead author of the study. “We need to be aware of this association and understand it better.”

Find out: Americans Have Money on Their Mind – And Not in a Good Way

Take care of your health

Debt.com has advice for coping with financial stress. The first step to financial freedom starts with a plan. Get together all of your bills and create a budget.

The debt problem may be more severe than one person can handle alone. Fortunately, there are professionals who can help. Debt.com has partnered with many reputable organizations that have helped over half a million Americans get out of debt since 2013.

Once you have a plan for your financial health, it’s time to look inward and focus on your mental and physical health. Eating healthy foods and exercising will benefit both.

WebMD suggests activities like yoga and meditation. But also, seek an emotional support system. Talk with friends and family members. Money doesn’t have to be so taboo. Let others in on your situation and be kind to yourself while allowing time to heal.

“It is important to give ourselves grace and take advantage of resources to prioritize our mental health,” McCray said, “especially when navigating difficult financial times.”

Find out: Debt and Depression: How Money Stress Affects Mental Health