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STUDY: High Debt Could Be Harmful To Mental And Physical Health

By Joseph Diebold, Guest Contributor on August 16, 2013 at 9:27 am

"STUDY: High Debt Could Be Harmful To Mental And Physical Health"

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Young adults with high debt may be at risk for higher blood pressure and worse mental health, according to a new study from Northwestern University.

The study, conducted on 8,400 adults between 24 and 32 years old, found that “higher debt-to-asset ratio was associated with higher perceived stress and depression, worse self-reported general health and higher diastolic blood pressure.” One in five subjects reported that even if they liquidated all of their assets, they would still be in debt.

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

Individuals with higher debt also reported greater stress and were more likely to have depressive symptoms.

“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.”

The study is particularly alarming giving the skyrocketing amount of debt held by young adults in recent years. The cost of attending a public four-year college has risen 27 percent in the last five years, while one in eight people who have taken out student loans are in default. At many schools, more students will default on their loan debt than graduate. Having high debt can also exacerbate the already-existing reasons why lower-income people have worse health.

Joseph Diebold is an intern with ThinkProgress.

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