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April 30, 2024

Financial stress hits hard: nearly half of Millennials have experienced a panic or anxiety attack over finances

Asian woman appears stressed while calculating money expenses and planning a budget from her computer at home

Concerns about money are also causing less sleep and a loss of energy, according to a new study from Bread Financial

COLUMBUS, OH – April 30, 2024 – Bread Financial™ (NYSE: BFH), a tech-forward financial services company that provides simple, personalized payment, lending, and saving solutions, today released findings from a national study that explores the connections between mental health and financial stress for consumers in the United States.

The data found a significant emotional and mental health impact stemming from challenging financial circumstances among the 82% of respondents who reported feeling stressed about money at least some days. For example, 42% of these respondents reported experiencing financially related-panic or anxiety attacks. Most notably, younger generations such as Millennials (49%) and Gen Z (48%) are particularly affected, compared to only 26% of Baby Boomers.

Consumers also expressed feelings of anxiety (61%) and depression (40%) linked to financial concerns. More specifically, 67% of Millennials, 62% of Gen X, and 58% of Gen Z have reported experiencing anxiety. Financial worries have also manifested in physical ailments among consumers, with respondents experiencing financial anxiety citing sleep disturbances (53%) and decreased energy levels (40%) as the primary physical ailments caused by financial stress.

Additional noteworthy findings from the study include: 

Counting Costs: Mental Toll of Financial Anxiety
Almost one-third (32%) of women said they experience stress daily surrounding finances and 24% more say they experience financial-related stress most days. Younger consumers such as Gen Z are going as far as overworking themselves to avoid financial strain (31%), with 29% not taking time off from work when they are sick and 27% not scheduling vacation time off for fun.

Living Essentials Adding Pressure 
A financial stressor across generations stems from daily and monthly living essentials such as groceries with nearly half (43%) of respondents feeling stressed about affording groceries. This shift in priorities is evident, especially among women, with 48% feeling most stressed about groceries compared to 37% of men.

The report highlights paying utilities (water, electricity, gas, etc.) as another major source of financial stress, trailing closely behind groceries. Across generations, Millennials (39%), Gen X (40%), and Baby Boomers (33%) reported stress related to affording utilities, while only 29% of Gen Z respondents shared the same concern.

Separately, a study from Financial Health Network, sponsored by Bread Financial, found participants were feeling stress and pressure surrounding day-to-day needs such as affording food, housing, paying bills, and managing the rising prices of inflation. Participants also discussed that worrying about these expenses heightened their anxiety and, in some cases, could trigger a depressive episode. 

The Good, The Bad & The Coping
Consumers are prioritizing mental health over financial stress, often at a financial cost. A significant 46% of respondents have avoided dealing with financial issues—such as bills or credit alerts—for their mental well-being. This trend is particularly notable among Gen X (52%), Millennials (51%), and Gen Z (50%).

While Millennials (78%) and Gen Z (81%) are relatively open about discussing money stress, for many, it remains a taboo subject. Among the 29% of respondents who don’t talk to anyone about money stressors, more than half (57%) consider themselves "private" about finances, explaining why they don't discuss these matters openly. When it comes to coping with financial stress, respondents turn to familiar activities like listening to music (46%), watching movies and TV (45%) and practicing self-care (31%) —underscoring the commonality of financial stress across demographics.

Penny Pinching Pandemonium
Overall, 84% reported their social life has been impacted due to money-related stressors. Specifically, younger generations are worried so much about their finances they are staying home and avoiding social gatherings with 64% of Millennials, 58% of Gen X, and 48% of Gen Z doing so to remain on budget. Meanwhile, the report found nearly a third of Baby Boomers (31%) have never been impacted socially by a money stressor, significantly higher than younger generations.

The Calm After the Storm
Respondents who rarely or never experience money stress said the top reasons for this were having a high credit score (45%), plenty of savings (44%) and sticking to a strict budget (39%). To reduce financial stress, respondents said they make a budget (41%), cancel unused subscriptions or memberships (38%), sell unwanted belongings for extra cash (30%), pay off debt (21%), and educate themselves about financial topics (20%). Lastly, more than half (55%) said they feel “at peace” when their finances are under control.

“Each person’s financial path is different, and we must acknowledge the significant impact of financial stress on mental and physical well-being,” said Lindsay Bryan-Podvin, a behavioral finance expert and consultant for Bread Financial. “Financial stressors impact our physical and emotional well-being, and can disrupt sleep, heighten anxiety, manifest as physical discomfort, and reduce energy levels. Individuals can navigate these challenges with compassion and resilience by tending to their mental health as a part of financial well-being. Go for a walk before peeking at your credit card balance, text a friend to celebrate earning more interest in your HYSA account or commit some time each month to learning more about how to manage your finances."

A sample of 1,691 US consumers participated in this study conducted by Bread Financial through an online quantitative survey that took place March 25-26, 2024. Except where noted, qualified respondents indicated that they feel stressed about money at least ‘some days.’ 

About Bread Financial™

Bread Financial™ (NYSE: BFH) is a tech-forward financial services company providing simple, personalized payment, lending and saving solutions. The company creates opportunities for its customers and partners through digitally enabled choices that offer ease, empowerment, financial flexibility and exceptional customer experiences. Driven by a digital-first approach, data insights and white-label technology, Bread Financial delivers growth for its partners through a comprehensive suite of payment solutions that includes private label and co-brand credit cards and Bread Pay™ buy now, pay later products. Bread Financial also offers direct-to-consumer products that give customers more access, choice and freedom through its branded Bread Cashback American Express® Credit Card and Bread Savings™ products.

Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, Bread Financial is powered by its approximately 7,000+ global associates and is committed to sustainable business practices. To learn more about Bread Financial, visit or follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter/X and Instagram.