Life Issues Research Articles & Resources

Imogen Sharma
Last updated:
Erin L. George, MFT
Erin L. George, MFT
Medical editor
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What Are Life Issues?

Life issues impact the entire population. Family problems, romantic issues, money troubles, loneliness, workplace conflicts, career setbacks, and physical and mental health challenges are common examples. When some people are under stress, self-control is more difficult, and they're more prone to impulsive behavior, which can lead to a downward spiral. (1) By understanding what common life issues look like and practicing self-care, it's possible to stay in control and overcome them. 

Some of life's concerns take more work to get through, and some people seem to be able to instinctively handle the stress they cause. Others need to take steps and learn adaptive strategies. Upbringing, environment, genes, and experiences shape how individuals respond to challenges. (2)

Lifestyle is thought to play a key role in how resilient someone is when difficulties arise. Health and quality of life, for example, are directly related to consistent daily self-care habits and behaviors. (3) As such, a person with a structured routine and who actively practices self-care is likely to be more resilient under stressful circumstances. 

It's possible to learn coping mechanisms and emotional regulation skills to make tackling life's inevitable setbacks more manageable. If they're unmanageable, a mental illness might be present, in which case professional treatment is the best option. People can help themselves by accessing talk therapy, fostering positive relationships, taking care of their health, and making time for hobbies and fun.

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Relationship Problems

Romantic and family issues are bound to arise from time to time, but they can cause damage to individual mental health if left unchecked. (4) Common relationship problems include:

  • Conflict: Conflict occurs in any relationship because even people who are close have different beliefs, values, perceptions, and desires. Learning to listen, show empathy, and make sure each other feels heard are important ways to manage conflict.
  • Poor communication: Not listening, interrupting, using the silent treatment, not owning up to mistakes, and making assumptions are examples of poor communication.
  • Power and control: When someone demonstrates a pattern of exerting power and control over another person, it could be a sign of abuse. (5) Physical, emotional, and financial abuse are harmful actions where a perpetrator seeks to overwhelm their victim and bend them to their will. 
  • Dishonesty: While lying isn't criminal behavior, it can be hugely damaging in a relationship. Manipulation of the truth destroys trust and leads to an unfair power balance. (6)
  • Disrespect: Respecting each other's opinions, beliefs, and perspectives is crucial for a healthy relationship. Without respect, one party is likely to feel disempowered—which is the opposite of how loved ones should make each other feel. (7)
  • Dependence: While one partner putting too much distance between them and the other person in the relationship is an issue, so is being overly dependent. Spending time apart, feeling comfortable alone, and having separate hobbies are all critical to a mutually beneficial relationship. 

Financial Issues

Data from the cross-sectional 2018 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) shows a significant association between financial worries and psychological distress. (8) What's more, people with mental health issues are three and a half times more likely to get into problem debt than those without a psychological disorder. (9) 

Someone with mental illness might struggle to effectively manage money in the following ways:

  • Avoiding looking at bills, bank accounts, or thinking about money at all
  • Finding it difficult to earn money or study
  • Lacking motivation can make managing finances seem overwhelming and not worth trying
  • Overspending can feel exciting and comforting to someone with depression, anxiety, or stress — an impulsive behavior associated with bipolar disorder (10)
  • Having decreased willpower can make managing money more challenging (11)

In addition to mental health impacting financial management, money worries can contribute to negative mental health outcomes. For example:

  • Stressing over money can contribute to sleep disturbances. (12)
  • Feeling isolated due to a lack of access to social activities could lead to depression. (13)
  • Not being able to afford basic necessities, such as medication, food, heating, housing, or therapy, negatively impacts physical and mental health. (14)
  • Having money troubles, such as debts or lack of income, can make people feel anxious. (15)

Mental Health Issues

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in eight people in the world has a mental health issue. (16) Mental illness involves disturbances in emotional regulation, behavior, or thinking that impact an individual's ability to function. Common examples include:

Signs of mental illness vary depending on the disorder. Here are some common symptoms:

  • Chronic low mood
  • Lack of energy
  • Extreme worrying, fears, or feelings of shame
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Losing touch with reality (delusions, paranoia, and hallucinations)
  • No longer enjoying hobbies 
  • Substance use 
  • Hostility, anger, or violence
  • Suicidal thoughts (17)

Causes of mental illness:

  • Genetics 
  • Adverse experiences in childhood (18)
  • Brain chemistry
  • Chronic illness
  • Substance use
  • Loneliness and isolation (19)

Risk factors for mental health problems:

  • Having a close blood relative with mental illness
  • Life issues such as financial difficulties or chronic illness
  • Traumatic experiences
  • Lack of healthy relationships
  • History of mental illness 

Health Issues

One of life's issues that can be most difficult to cope with is ill health — especially chronic diseases that affect daily life. Certain health problems such as dementia, diabetes, osteoporosis, and heart disease are common in people over the age of 85. (20) However, in the U.S., 27.2% of the adult population has more than one chronic health condition, making wellness a critical focus at any age. (21) 

A study from the U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs says that chronic illness that lasts for more than 1 year can increase the risk of mental illness and suicide. (22) It's important for people with chronic health conditions to speak to a health professional about any mental health symptoms, so they can receive treatment.   

Diseases associated with an increased risk of suicide include:

  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Neurological conditions
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) 
  • Kidney disease
  • Chronic pain
  • Multiple chronic conditions

Furthermore, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. (23) Common mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, and trauma-related conditions put stress on the body, including the heart. (24) These illnesses can lead to high blood pressure, increased resting heart rate, heightened cortisol (a stress hormone), and reduced blood flow. Over time, these symptoms can lead to metabolic disease, artery disease, and heart disease.

The relationship between physical and mental well-being works both ways. Heart attack, stroke, or heart failure can contribute to the onset of PTSD, depression, or anxiety. People with mental illness might have fewer healthy coping mechanisms, making it hard to maintain a healthy lifestyle under stress or manage ill health. It could also make them more likely to use substances, be sedentary, and struggle to take prescribed medicine. 

Managing Physical and Mental Well-Being

Attending regular health check-ups, getting into healthy daily habits, maintaining strong relationships, finding purpose in work or study, and taking time to enjoy life are all crucial for well-being. Anyone who struggles to function in those ways should consider seeking professional help from a licensed therapist. 


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