There is a strong correlation between mental and financial health, and both have declined sharply in the U.S. since January, according to a survey.

The state of mental health for U.S. workers dropped by more than 2% from January to February, and the resilience those workers felt to financial risk declined by almost 4%, said the survey conducted by Telus Health, a global healthcare company.

“We’re not in a great place right now. If you really look under the covers, we have almost half of the population feeling more sensitive to stress,” said Paula Allen, the Telus global leader for business and client insights. “We’re focused a lot less on the pandemic, but inflation is obsessing the population and making people feel a lot more personally vulnerable. There are things that matter to our mental wellbeing, and our financial wellbeing is a big part of it.”

However, the survey found, U.S. workers at all income levels who said they worked with a financial advisor posted higher scores in both areas, bucking the national trend.

“We know that people who are in a better financial situation, their mental health is better,” Allen said. “And we do know that people who leverage financial advisors, regardless of what their income is, they’re doing better with their mental health than those who do not.”

While Telus (formerly LifeWorks) has conducted its Mental Health Index survey since 2017, it added the Financial Wellbeing Index in the U.S. in January 2021 because it was seeing the correlation between mental and financial health, Allen said.

The current survey, taken in mid-February, had more than 5,000 U.S. workers respond, representing a cross-section of age, gender, region and industry. They were asked to think about the prior two weeks when answering the questions.

In February, workers scored 69.89 points out of 100 in the Mental Health Index, a drop from 72 points in January and reflecting a reversal of improvements seen over the last year. The mental health sub-score on resiliency to financial risk similarly declined to 73.1 points from 76.9 points, outpacing percentage increases in anxiety, isolation and depression.

Meanwhile, the longer-view Financial Wellbeing Index dropped to 66.7 points in February from its high of 71 points in August of last year.

The biggest financial drags on mental health are debt and uncertainty, the survey found, with the mental health and financial well-being scores of people who said they were overwhelmed by debt clocking in at 10 and 15 points below the national averages. However, the 60% of employees who said they did not feel overwhelmed by debt had mental health and financial wellbeing scores well above the national average.

For example, when looking at mental health, employees who felt overwhelmed by debt scored 59.6 points, compared with 76.7 points for employees who didn’t not feel overwhelmed by debt and 69.8 point for the national average.

When considering financial wellbeing, employees who felt overwhelmed by debt scored 51.4 points, compared with 76.9 points for employees who didn’t not feel overwhelmed by debt and 66.7 points for the national average.

The most important factor determining where someone landed on the spectrum of mental health and financial wellness was whether or not they had emergency savings, the survey said.

“We found that the presence or absence of emergency savings as being one of the biggest predictors of peoples’ mental well-being,” Allen said. “If you don’t have a cushion, that ability to know you’re going to be OK if certain things happen, you’re necessarily feeling more vulnerable, and when you’re more vulnerable, you’re more anxious.”

Americans with emergency savings had a mental health score of 75.9, six points above the national average, while those without an emergency fund had a score of 51.7 points, about 18 points below the national average.

In addition, Allen said the higher scores for those with emergency savings did not correlate to income.

“People with higher income who don’t have emergency savings are more vulnerable with people with lower income who do have emergency savings,” she said. “Having that cushion is the big thing, not income.”

At the same time, the survey found the 11% of workers who said they worked with an independent financial advisor had among the highest mental health scores (76.7 points) and financial wellbeing scores (77 points), which might go hand in hand with the fact that advisors generally work with clients to build and preserve that emergency savings.

“When people have money it becomes more the norm to have a financial advisor, but we also know that even among those with money those with financial advisors do better in their mental health than those who don’t,” Allen said.

The primary reasons respondents gave for not asking for financial advice were the belief they could manage on their own, general inertia, a lack of assets to invest and embarrassment that they don’t know what to do with their money.