Having ‘bad’ debt can lead to deterioration in physical health


According to new research, the stress of carrying unsecured debt into adulthood is linked to poorer physical health conditions, including pain that interferes with daily activities.

“Bad” or unsecured debt includes credit card debt and payday loans.

Adrianne Frech, a medical sociologist and associate professor in the School of Health Professions at the University of Missouri, analyzed data from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics to examine the financial health of nearly 8,000 “babies”. boomers ”aged 28 to 40 as well as their physical health at 50.

“The most common trend we found was that people who carried their debt with them over time had poorer physical health later in life,” says Frech.

“Those with consistently high debt were 76% more likely to have pain that interfered with their daily lives compared to those without unsecured debt, and what surprised us most was that even people who paid off their debt over time were still 50 years old. % more likely to have painful interference than those without unsecured debt. “

Frech explains that people who take on unsecured debt often do so under circumstances of stress or desperation, such as following a medical emergency or having consistently low income even as the cost of living continues to rise. with inflation.

“If people don’t have enough money to meet basic needs like food and shelter, they tend to take on credit card debt or a payday loan,” says Frech.

“The solution is not simply to tell people to spend their money better or to avoid medical emergencies, we must first address the systematic inequalities that create these desperate circumstances. “

The link between unsecured debt and poor health can quickly turn into a downward spiral. Stagnant wages can lead people to take on unsecured debt, and the stress caused by debt negatively affects physical health, which can limit people’s ability to work and pay off high-interest debt, and the cycle continues. continues, says Frech.

“Debt and chronic pain can build up over time, so it’s hard to reverse this cycle once it starts,” says Frech.

“Ideally, we could prevent individuals from taking on unsecured debt in the first place, and that starts with increasing wages so people can meet their basic needs. “

The search appears in Population health.

Additional co-authors are from Dartmouth College and East Carolina University.

Source: University of Missouri


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