In young adults, high financial debt has been associated with higher diastolic blood pressure, finds new study.
The study offers a glimpse into the impact debt may have on the health of young Americans.
Elizabeth Sweet, lead author of the study, said that since the 1980s American household debt has tripled, it is important to understand the health consequences associated with debt.
Researchers used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to explore the association between debt and both psychological and general health outcomes in 8,400 young adults, ages 24 to 32 years old.
The study found that twenty percent of participants reported that they would still be in debt if they liquidated all of their assets (high debt-to-asset-ratio).
Another finding of the study is the higher debt-to-asset ratio was associated with higher perceived stress and depression, worse self-reported general health and higher diastolic blood pressure.
The study also found that those with higher debt were found to have a 1.3 percent increase (relative to the mean) in diastolic blood pressure-which is clinically significant. A two-point increase in diastolic blood pressure, for example, is associated with a 17 percent higher risk of hypertension and a 15 percent higher risk of stroke.
The researchers found that individuals with high compared to low debt reported higher levels of perceived stress (representing an 11.7 percent increase relative to the mean) and higher depressive symptoms (a 13.2 percent increase relative to the mean).
In the study, personal financial debt was measured in two ways. Participants were asked about their debt-to-asset ratio by answering this question: "Suppose you and others in your household were to sell all of your major possessions (including your home), turn all of your investments and other assets into cash, and pay off all of your debts. Would you have something left over, break even or be in debt?"
Second, participants were asked how much debt, besides a home mortgage, they owe. Response categories ranged from "less than $1,000" to "$250,000 or more."
Perceived stress, depressive symptoms and general health were measured through a series of questions. Both systolic and diastolic blood pressures were measured on each participant by a field interviewer.
The study has been published in the August issue of Social Science and Medicine.