Short-term lending: Payday loans as risk factors for anxiety, inflammation and poor health

Elizabeth Sweet*, Christopher W. Kuzawa, Thomas W. McDade

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


While research now consistently links consumer financial debt with adverse emotional health outcomes, specific forms of debt and their impact on measures of physical health are underexplored. This gap in knowledge is significant because different forms of loans and debt may have different experiential qualities. In this paper, we focus on a type of unsecured debt - short-term/payday loan borrowing – that has risen dramatically in recent decades in the United States and is characterized by predatory, discriminatory, and poorly regulated lending practices. Using data from a study of debt and health among adults in Boston, MA (n=286), we test whether short-term borrowing is associated with a range of emotional and physical health indicators. We find that short-term loans are associated with higher body mass index, waist circumference, C-reactive protein levels, and self-reported symptoms of physical health, sexual health, and anxiety, after controlling for several socio-demographic covariates. We discuss these findings within the contexts of regulatory shortcomings, psychosocial stress, and racial and economic credit disparities. We suggest that within the broader context of financial debt and health, short-term loans should be considered a specific risk to population health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)114-121
Number of pages8
JournalSSM - Population Health
StatePublished - Aug 2018


  • Biomarkers
  • Debt
  • Predatory lending
  • Social determinants of health
  • short-term loans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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