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

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

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Social Science & Medicine.

    Volume (Year): 91 (2013)
    Issue (Month): C ()
    Pages: 94-100

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:91:y:2013:i:c:p:94-100

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    Related research

    Keywords: Financial debt; Socioeconomic status; Social determinants of health;

    References

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    1. Francisco Alvarez-Cuadrado & Ngo Van Long, 2008. "The Relative Income Hypothesis," CIRANO Working Papers, CIRANO 2008s-18, CIRANO.
    2. Selenko, Eva & Batinic, Bernad, 2011. "Beyond debt. A moderator analysis of the relationship between perceived financial strain and mental health," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 73(12), pages 1725-1732.
    3. Reading, Richard & Reynolds, Shirley, 2001. "Debt, social disadvantage and maternal depression," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 53(4), pages 441-453, August.
    4. Bridges, Sarah & Disney, Richard, 2010. "Debt and depression," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 388-403, May.
    5. Brown, Sarah & Taylor, Karl & Wheatley Price, Stephen, 2005. "Debt and distress: Evaluating the psychological cost of credit," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 26(5), pages 642-663, October.
    6. Thomas Palley, 2010. "The Relative Permanent Income Theory of Consumption: A Synthetic Keynes-Duesenberry-Friedman Model," Review of Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 22(1), pages 41-56.
    7. Drentea, Patricia & Lavrakas, Paul J., 2000. "Over the limit: the association among health, race and debt," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 50(4), pages 517-529, February.
    8. Milton Friedman, 1957. "A Theory of the Consumption Function," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number frie57-1, October.
    9. Rodrigo Alfaro & Natalia Gallardo, 2012. "The Determinants of Household Debt Default," Revista de Analisis Economico – Economic Analysis Review, Ilades-Georgetown University, Universidad Alberto Hurtado/School of Economics and Bussines, Ilades-Georgetown University, Universidad Alberto Hurtado/School of Economics and Bussines, vol. 27(1), pages 55-70, April.
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