November 26, 2022
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Could Student Loan Debt Threaten Your Health? – Consumer Health News


Thursday, May 5, 2022 (HealthDay News) – As the Biden administration considers the possibility of wider student loan waivers, a new study has found that people in student debt are at higher risk of heart disease in middle age.

The results are not the first to suggest that student loans may take an emotional and physical toll.

Younger adults who are paying off huge debts have been shown to have less sleep, higher blood pressure and higher rates of smoking than their debt-free peers – although why this remains uncertain.

The new study suggests that while student loans can bring great benefits – for example, a college degree – it can have health consequences for people who struggle to pay them off year after year.

Researchers have found that Americans who still carry student loans in their 30s and early 40s are generally at higher risk for heart disease, including high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking and being overweight. They also had high levels of C-reactive protein in their blood, which indicates chronic inflammation.

This compares with people who have never been in debt and who have repaid their student loans more quickly.

In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of “financial toxicity” that can come with debt, which is compounded by medical or household bills.

“I think this new research is important because it’s focusing on student loans,” said Thomas McDade, a professor and fellow at the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL.

McDade, who was not involved in the research, noted that student loans can be seen as a gentle form of loan: it is taken in exchange for a higher degree and the positive aspects that go with it – the possibility of earning more, a career ladder to climb, and There are health insurance and other job benefits.

All of these things are associated with good physical and mental health.

“But it has to be a manageable amount of debt,” McDade said.

New research can’t say why long-term student debt was linked to poor heart disease. But McDade suspects that chronic stress is the key.

“Stress has a direct physiological effect on the body,” he said, “and it also affects your behavior – how you eat, whether you smoke.”

Also, McDade added, when people spend years on debt repayment, they have less money for healthy meals, a gym membership or a stress-relieving vacation.

For the study, researchers led by Adam Lippert of the University of Colorado Denver used data from a long-term project that tracked the health of about 4,200 Americans between 1994 and 2018. In the first assessment, participants were in middle school or high school. Ultimately, their ages were between 33 and 44.

Overall, 37% of early adults or those in their 30s or 40s reported no student loan. More than half, however, were either in constant debt due to student debt, or borrowed between young adults and middle-aged.

Another 12% had student loans but repaid them in a relatively short time.

It has been proven that students in their 30’s and 40’s who had debt had higher cardiovascular “risk scores” by evaluating their final study. These scores are based on factors such as weight, smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Those with long-term debt had higher levels of CRP in their blood. This is an important finding, McDade says, as it links student debt to a biological marker of chronic inflammation – although it does not prove that debt stress is the cause.

The results were published May 3 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

J., a policy analyst at the Center for Law and Social Policy in Washington, DC. According to Gaiman, other studies have linked student hatred to serious mental health damage.

For example, a 2021 survey found that 1 in 14 high-debt student borrowers ever considered suicide due to financial difficulties.

Student debt is also an issue of health equity, said Gaiman, who was not involved in the new study: Black Americans, on average, borrow more and borrow more money, while spending less on rewards – most other ethnic and racial groups, including lower college graduation rates. Thus, they are more likely to incur significant borrowing deficits.

Geiman points to a bigger context: the latest findings are based on people who went to college 20 years ago or more – and now the outlook could be even worse.

“College tuition is over, the cost of living has risen, and wages have stagnated,” Gaiman said.

There are, of course, many benefits to pursuing higher education, McDade says, but in the end, the growing cost of achieving this needs to be addressed.

“Everyone should have the right to higher education if they want to, without incurring unnecessary financial burdens,” McDade said.

More info

The American Psychological Association has more on the psychological toll of debt.

Sources: Thomas McDade, PhD, Professor, Anthropology, and Fellow, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill .; J. Gaiman, policy analyst, Center for Education, Labor and Personnel Justice, Law and Social Policy, Washington, DC; American Journal of Preventive Medicine, May 3, 2022

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