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

Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Department of Medical Social Sciences, Abbott Hall, 710 N. Lake Shore Drive, Suite 729, Chicago, IL 60611, USA. Electronic address: .
Social Science [?] Medicine (Impact Factor: 2.89). 08/2013; 91C:94-100. DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2013.05.009
Source: PubMed


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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Available from: Thomas W Mcdade, Sep 17, 2015
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    • "These chronic stressors include economic hardship, discrimination, neighborhood violence and low perceived social status. It is well known that individuals exposed to chronic stress are vulnerable to anxiety and depression [42] [43]. Epidemiological studies document that psychological stress may have a significant deleterious effect on the development and progression of atherosclerosis [44] [45]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Background: Although it is well established that African Americans (AA) experience greater social stressors than non-Hispanic Whites (NHW), the extent to which early life adversity and cumulative social stressors such as perceived discrimination, neighborhood violence, subjective social status, and socioeconomic status contribute to disparity in coronary heart disease (CHD) and stroke between AA and NHW are not well understood. Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to propose a conceptual model based upon McEwen's Allostatic Load Model suggesting how the relationships among social context, early life adversity, psychological stress, inflammation, adaptation, and epigenetic signature may contribute to the development of CHD and ischemic stroke. We hypothesize that social context and prior life adversity are associated with genome-wide as well as gene-specific epigenetic modifications that confer a proinflammatory epigenetic signature that mediates an enhanced proinflammatory state. Exposure to early life adversity, coupled with an increased allostatic load places individuals at greater risk for inflammatory based diseases, such as CHD and ischemic stroke. Results: Based on a review of the literature, we propose a novel model in which social context and psychological stress, particularly during early life, engenders a proinflammatory epigenetic signature, which drives a heightened inflammatory state that increases risk for CHD and stroke. In the proposed model, a proinflammatory epigenetic signature and adaptation serve as mediator variables. Conclusions: Understanding the extent to which epigenetic signature bridges the psycho-social environment with inflammation and risk for CHD may yield novel biomarkers that can be used to assess risk, development, and progression of CHD/stroke. Epigenetic biomarkers may be used to inform preventive and treatment strategies that can be targeted to those most vulnerable, or to those with early signs of CHD, such as endothelial dysfunction. Furthermore, epigenetic approaches, including lifestyle modification and stress reduction programs, such as mindfulness-based stress reduction, offer promise to reduce health inequity linked to social disadvantage, as emerging evidence demonstrates that adverse epigenetic marks can be reversed.
    Aging and Disease 10/2014; 5(5):346-355. DOI:10.14336/AD.2014.0500346 · 3.07 Impact Factor
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    • "These findings show that the current charging practices of OST dispensing fees not only increase drop-out rates due to an increase in the relapse risk [33-35] and the inability to pay for doses, but also increase the risk of adverse health problems. Financial pressure from personal debt has been linked to an increased risk of substance abuse [36], mental health issues, depression, suicidal ideation, stress, and anxiety [36-38]. The prevalence of these health issues are high in drug addiction patients [39] and the added financial pressure from the dispensing fees are likely to exacerbate these conditions. "
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    ABSTRACT: Background Opioid substitution therapy (OST) programs involve the dispensing of OST medicines to patients to address their dependence on heroin and/or other opioid substances. OST medicines are subsidised by the Australian government but patients need to pay the dispensing fees. This study explored opinions from OST patients and stakeholders about the potential impact of dispensing fees on compliance and OST program retention. Current and past experiences and the potential impact of OST dispensing fees were evaluated. Methods Mixed methodology was used to obtain data from OST patients and stakeholders. This involved 1) interviews with OST stakeholders, 2) a focus group of OST patients and 3) surveys of OST patients in Perth, Australia, between June and August 2013. Results The majority of the eight stakeholders declared cost as the factor mostly impacting on OST compliance. Almost all of the stakeholders commented that there was a positive correlation between time on the OST program and success in terms of relapse. Most stakeholders advocated for OST fees to contribute towards the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme Safety Net, and for fee subsidy. Focus group themes supported stakeholder interview findings. A total of 138 surveys were completed. Survey analysis illustrated a strong correlation between patient debt and impacted lifestyle: 82.4% (p < 0.001, Chi-square test) of the 138 survey participants stated that dispensing fees impacted significantly on patients’ finances and lifestyle, specifically those patients with major debt. The cost of dispensing fees was identified by 46.3% (64/138) of survey participants as the biggest impacting factor on patient success. Logistic regression models showed that the cost of dispensing fees was also found to significantly influence both the occurrence of debt (57.7%, p < 0.0001) and lifestyle difficulties (80.0%, p = 0.0004). Conclusion Findings provided insight into OST patients’ financial difficulties with data suggesting that dispensing fees are likely to have a negative impact on OST patients’ compliance with therapy, retention in the OST program and lifestyle. Government sponsorship of the OST dispensing fees should be considered as sponsorship would potentially increase the retention rates of income-poor OST program recipients.
    Substance Abuse Treatment Prevention and Policy 08/2014; 9(1):32. DOI:10.1186/1747-597X-9-32 · 1.16 Impact Factor
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