Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

High debt could be hazardous to your health

Date:
August 15, 2013
Source:
Northwestern University
Summary:
If young people are drowning in debt, their blood pressure may be on the rise and their health could suffer. A new study has found that high financial debt is associated with higher diastolic blood pressure and poorer self-reported general and mental health in young adults.

If young people are drowning in debt, their blood pressure may be on the rise and their health could suffer. A new Northwestern Medicineฎ study has found that high financial debt is associated with higher diastolic blood pressure and poorer self-reported general and mental health in young adults.

The study, published in the August issue of Social Science and Medicine, offers a glimpse into the impact debt may have on the health of young Americans.

"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."

Sweet is an assistant professor of medical social sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a faculty associate of Cells to Society (C2S): The Center on Social Disparities and Health, at the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern.

Researchers used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to explore the association between debt and both psychological and general health outcomes in 8,400 young adults, ages 24 to 32 years old.

Previous studies have found evidence that debt is associated with adverse psychological health, but this is the first to look at physical health as well.

Here are some key findings of the study:

  • Twenty percent of participants reported that they would still be in debt if they liquidated all of their assets (high debt-to-asset-ratio).
  • Higher debt-to-asset ratio was associated with higher perceived stress and depression, worse self-reported general health and higher diastolic blood pressure.

Those with higher debt were found to have a 1.3 percent increase (relative to the mean) in diastolic blood pressure -- which is clinically significant. A two-point increase in diastolic blood pressure, for example, is associated with a 17 percent higher risk of hypertension and a 15 percent higher risk of stroke.

The researchers found that individuals with high compared to low debt reported higher levels of perceived stress (representing an 11.7 percent increase relative to the mean) and higher depressive symptoms (a 13.2 percent increase relative to the mean).

"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."

In the study, personal financial debt was measured in two ways. Participants were asked about their debt-to-asset ratio by answering this question: "Suppose you and others in your household were to sell all of your major possessions (including your home), turn all of your investments and other assets into cash, and pay off all of your debts. Would you have something left over, break even or be in debt?"

Second, participants were asked how much debt, besides a home mortgage, they owe. Response categories ranged from "less than $1,000" to "$250,000 or more."

Perceived stress, depressive symptoms and general health were measured through a series of questions. Both systolic and diastolic blood pressures were measured on each participant by a field interviewer.

Other study authors include, Thomas W. McDade, professor of anthropology at Northwestern and director of C2S: The Center on Social Disparities and Health, at the Institute for Policy Research, Emma K. Adam, professor of human development and social policy at C2S and in the school of education and social policy at Northwestern, and Arijit Nandi, assistant professor at the Institute for Health and Social Policy and the department of epidemiology, biostatistics and occupational health at McGill University.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Northwestern University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Northwestern University. "High debt could be hazardous to your health." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 August 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130815172347.htm>.
Northwestern University. (2013, August 15). High debt could be hazardous to your health. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130815172347.htm
Northwestern University. "High debt could be hazardous to your health." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130815172347.htm (accessed September 23, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Liberia Pleads for Help to Fight Ebola

Liberia Pleads for Help to Fight Ebola

AP (Sep. 22, 2014) — Liberia's finance minister is urging the international community to quickly follow through on pledges of cash to battle Ebola. Bodies are piling up in the capital Monrovia as the nation awaits more help. (Sept. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Doctor Says Border Controls Critical

Ebola Doctor Says Border Controls Critical

AP (Sep. 22, 2014) — A Florida doctor who helped fight the expanding Ebola outbreak in West Africa says the disease can be stopped, but only if nations quickly step up their response and make border control a priority. (Sept. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Global Ebola Aid Increasing But Critics Say It's Late

Global Ebola Aid Increasing But Critics Say It's Late

Newsy (Sep. 21, 2014) — More than 100 tons of medical supplies were sent to West Africa on Saturday, but aid workers say the global response is still sluggish. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sierra Leone in Lockdown to Control Ebola

Sierra Leone in Lockdown to Control Ebola

AP (Sep. 21, 2014) — Sierra Leone residents remained in lockdown on Saturday as part of a massive effort to confine millions of people to their homes in a bid to stem the biggest Ebola outbreak in history. (Sept. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins