The high price of debt: Household financial debt and its impact on mental and physical health

Elizabeth Sweet*, Arijit Nandi, Emma K. Adam, Thomas W. McDade

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

148 Scopus citations

Abstract

Household financial debt in America has risen dramatically in recent years. While there is evidence that debt is associated with adverse psychological health, its relationship with other health outcomes is relatively unknown. We investigate the associations of multiple indices of financial debt with psychological and general health outcomes among 8400 young adult respondents from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health). Our findings show that reporting high financial debt relative to available assets is associated with higher perceived stress and depression, worse self-reported general health, and higher diastolic blood pressure. These associations remain significant when controlling for prior socioeconomic status, psychological and physical health, and other demographic factors. The results suggest that debt is an important socioeconomic determinant of health that should be explored further in social epidemiology research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)94-100
Number of pages7
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Volume91
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2013

Keywords

  • Financial debt
  • Social determinants of health
  • Socioeconomic status

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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