THURSDAY, May 5, 2022 (HealthDay News) — As the Biden administration weighs the possibility of a broad student loan forgiveness, a new study finds those mired in student debt face an increased risk of heart disease at home. ‘mature age.
The results are not the first to suggest that student debt can have a mental and physical impact.
Young adults who repay huge loans have been shown to have poorer sleep, higher blood pressure and higher smoking rates than their debt-free peers – although the reason remains unclear.
The new study suggests that while student loans can bring big benefits — namely, a college degree — there may be health consequences for people who struggle for years to repay them.
Researchers found that Americans who still had student debt in their 30s and early 40s generally had more risk factors for heart disease, including high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking and overeating. weight. They also had higher blood levels of C reactive proteina marker of chronic inflammation.
This was in comparison both to people who had never been in debt and to those who had paid off their student loans faster.
In recent years, there has been growing recognition of the “financial toxicity” that can accompany debt, including being buried in medical or household bills.
“I think this new study is important because it focuses on student debt,” said Thomas McDade, a professor and researcher at the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.
McDade, who was not involved in the research, noted that student loans can be considered a mild form of debt: they are taken out in exchange for a higher degree and the perks that come with it – the chance to earn more , move up a career ladder, and have health insurance and other benefits.
These things are all associated with better physical and mental health.
“But it has to be a manageable amount of debt,” McDade said.
The new study cannot say why persistent student debt was linked to poor heart health. But McDade suspects chronic stress is the main route.
“Stress has direct physiological effects on the body,” he said, “and it also affects your behavior – how you eat, whether you smoke.”
Plus, McDade added, when people spend years paying off debt, they have less money for healthy eating, a gym membership, or a stress-relieving vacation.
For the study, researchers led by Adam Lippert of the University of Colorado at Denver used data from a long-running project that tracked the health of nearly 4,200 Americans between 1994 and 2018. During the first assessment, participants were in middle school or high school. school. At last, they were between 33 and 44 years old.
Overall, 37% reported no student debt in early adulthood or in their 30s or 40s. Just over half, however, were either constantly in student loan debt or took out loans between early adulthood and middle age.
Another 12% had student loans, but paid them off in a relatively short period of time.
It turned out that people in debt in their 30s and 40s had higher cardiovascular “risk scores” on the final evaluation of the study. These scores are based on factors such as weight, smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes.
People with debt also had higher blood levels of CRP. It’s an important finding, McDade said, because it links student debt to a biological marker of chronic inflammation — though it doesn’t prove debt burden is the cause.
The results were published on May 3 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Other research has linked student debt to serious mental health issues, says J. Geiman, a policy analyst at the Center for Law and Social Policy in Washington, DC.
For example, a 2021 survey found that one in 14 heavily indebted student borrowers had ever considered suicide due to the financial burden.
Student debt is also a matter of health equity, said Geiman, who was not involved in the new study: Black Americans, on average, take out more student loans and borrow more money, while reaping fewer rewards — with college graduation rates below those of most other racial and ethnic groups. Thus, they are more likely to bear the substantial inconvenience of the loan.
Geiman also pointed to the larger context: The latest findings are based on people who went to college 20 or more years ago — and now the outlook may be worse.
“Tuition fees are up, the cost of living is up, and wages have stagnated,” Geiman said.
Higher education certainly has many benefits, McDade said, but ultimately the rising cost of obtaining it must be considered.
“Everyone should have the right to pursue higher education if they wish, without bearing undue financial burden,” McDade said.
The American Psychological Association has more on the psychological toll of debt.
SOURCES: Thomas McDade, PhD, professor of anthropology and fellow, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois; J. Geiman, Policy Analyst, Education, Labor Law and Workers’ Justice, Center for Law and Social Policy, Washington, DC; American Journal of Preventive Medicine, May 3, 2022
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