Debt is hazardous to health

Increased debt leads to decrease in health, reports new study

Man whose back is broken by debtA new Northwestern Medicine® study has proved that high financial debt leads to high diastolic blood pressure and poor health as perceived by young adults aged 24-32 years.

“We now live in a debt-fueled economy,” said Elizabeth Sweet, lead author of the study. “Since the 1980s American household debt has tripled. It’s important to understand the health consequences associated with debt.”

Her team analyzed records from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to find out if debt was related to psychological and general health . They studied data of 8,400 young adults, aged 24 to 32 years.

20 per cent of participants would still be in debt if they sold off all their assets. Such a high debt-to-asset ratio was seen to create a lot of stress and depression, very negative perception of general health, and increased diastolic blood pressure.

These young adults have a high risk of hypertension and stroke. Those with higher debt recorded a 1.3 per cent increase in diastolic blood pressure as compared to the average. Is 1.3 per cent significant? Yes, a two-point increase in diastolic blood pressure increases the risk of hypertension by 17 per cent and of stroke by 15 per cent.

The financial indebtedness was calculated through two questions.

  1. If you sold everything you have and repayed your debts, would you have some money left for yourself, no money left for yourself, or would you still be in debt?
  2.  What is the dollar amount of debt you have, not counting home loans?

Since the stress, health and depressive symptoms were supposed to self-reported, these were merely asked to the participants. Also the interviewers were took the blood pressure readings.

“You wouldn’t necessarily expect to see associations between debt and physical health in people who are so young,” Sweet said. “We need to be aware of this association and understand it better. Our study is just a first peek at how debt may impact physical health.”

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