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Health Hazards of Financial Debt

Posted Sep 13 2013 10:09pm
Posted on Sept. 13, 2013, 6 a.m. in Longevity Lifestyle
Health Hazards of Financial Debt

In that household financial debt in America has risen dramatically in recent years, the impact of financial debt on health has remained relatively underexplored.   Elizabeth Sweet, from Northwestern University (Illinois, USA), and colleagues analyzed data collected on 8,400 young adults, ages 24 to 32 years, enrolled in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, Finding that 20% of the subjects reported that they would still be in debt if they liquidated all of their assets (high debt-to-asset-ratio), the researchers determined that a 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 clinically significant 1.3% increase (relative to the mean) in diastolic blood pressure.  Further, the team found that individuals with high compared to low debt reported higher levels of perceived stress (representing an 11.7% increase relative to the mean) and higher depressive symptoms (a 13.2 percent increase relative to the mean). The study authors submit that: “The results suggest that debt is an important socioeconomic determinant of health that should be explored further.”

Elizabeth Sweet, Arijit Nandi, Emma K. Adam, Thomas W. McDade.  “The high price of debt: Household financial debt and its impact on mental and physical health.”  Social Science & Medicine, Volume 91, August 2013, Pages 94-100.

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Tip #192 - Stay Connected
Researchers from the University of Chicago (Illinois, USA) report that social isolation may be detrimental to both mental and physical health. The team analyzed data from the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project, a nationwide US study involving 3,000 men and women, ages 57 to 85 years. They arrived at three key findings regarding the relationships between health and different types of isolation:

• The researchers found that the most socially connected older adults are three times as likely to report very good or excellent health compared to those who are least connected, regardless of whether they feel isolated.

• The team found that older adults who feel least isolated are five times as likely to report very good or excellent health as those who feel most isolated, regardless of their actual level of social connectedness.

• They determined that social disconnectedness is not related to mental health unless it brings feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Separately, Rush University Medical Center (Illinois, USA) researchers studied 906 older men and women, testing their motor functions (including grip, pinch strength, balance, and walking) and surveying their social activity, for a period of 5 years. Those study participants with less social activity were found to have a more rapid rate of motor function decline. Specifically, the team found that every one-point decrease in social activity corresponded to an increase in functional aging of 5 years, translating to a 40% higher risk of death and 65% higher risk of disability.

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