Tales of traders throwing themselves out of windows on Wall Street in the wake of 1929 were essentially myths, as John Kenneth Galbraith noted in his 1955 account of the crash.
Nevertheless, current economic woes are clearly impacting on our country's mental and physical health. Stress is a well documented cause of depression, suicide, heart disease, stroke, predisposition to infection, and certain kinds of cancer.
Stress is often subliminal, it may overtake you before you realize it. The last thing a person in financial trouble needs is to be simultaneously dealing with illness, yet stress-induced illness is common.
SOME WORRISOME EXAMPLES OF THE EFFECTS OF FINANCIAL TROUBLES:
* In New York, calls to the Hopeline network for people with depression or suicidal thoughts leaped 75 percent to 10,368 in the 11 months ending in July 2008.
* In Chicago, ComPsych Corp., the world's largest provider of employee assistance programs, logged 21 percent more calls seeking help for stress from financial pressures in July than they received a year earlier.
* Hospital admissions for psychiatric services are up 10 percent this year over last year in claims submitted to UnitedHealth Group Inc., the largest U.S. health insurer.
* ValueOptions Inc., the fourth-largest U.S. provider of behavioral health and wellness services, reported that calls for assistance with home foreclosures, bankruptcy and other financial hardships have grown 89 percent this year over 2007.
* Research based on 17 years of Pennsylvania unemployment records concluded that employees affected by a mass layoff at a plant were 15 percent more likely to die of any cause over the next two decades.
* Harvey Brenner, professor emeritus at Johns Hopkins's Bloomberg School of Public Health, projects that rising unemployment could cause as many as 47,000 more deaths than would have otherwise occurred, including 1,200 more suicides, as well as nearly 26,000 more heart attacks.
WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT:
* Seek emotional support, from loved ones and if needed, professionals.
* Try to continue to focus on business as usual, and to avoid obsessive negative thoughts.
* Emphasize regular exercise, try relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation, eat regular meals, and as much as possible, observe regular sleep habits.
* Consult with your physician if your fear over your financial future is spiraling out of control. Anti-anxiety medication may be necessary to break the cycle of worry.
Dr. Marc Siegel is an internist and associate professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine. He is a FOX News Medical Contributor and writes a health column for LA Times, where he examines TV and movies for medical accuracy. Dr. Siegel is the author of "False Alarm: the Truth About the Epidemic of Fear" and "Bird Flu: Everything You Need to Know About the Next Pandemic". Read more at www.doctorsiegel.com