We know that heavy debt can take an emotional toll, causing major stress and anxiety. But can it also be detrimental to your body’s physical health?
A new study, published in Social Science and Medicine, has now found an association between high debt and poor health among young adults.
The news is noteworthy because it demonstrates the effect that money woes can have on our physical health (after all, it’s no secret that debt takes a toll on our emotional well-being), but it’s also surprising because all the study participants were in the younger generation: between 24 and 32 years old.
“You wouldn’t necessarily expect to see associations between debt and physical health in people who are so young,” Elizabeth Sweet, lead author of the study and a professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, said in a statement. “Our study is just a first peek at how debt may impact physical health.”
Of the over 8,000 young adults that the study analyzed, 20% were considered to have a high debt-to-asset ratio—so even if they liquidated all of their major possessions, assets and investments into cash … they’d still be in the red.
When asked about their overall well-being, Gen Y-ers who had more debt were more likely to report bad health. What’s more: They were more likely to have high blood pressure, showing an increase of 1.3% compared to the average, which might sound like a small number but can be more harmful than you think.
The study’s researchers note that a 1.3% jump in blood pressure is still “clinically significant,” adding that as little as a two-point spike in blood pressure may increase the risk of stroke by 15% and hypertension by 17%.
On the emotional side, these young adults also reported more depression and increased stress relative to others.
While the researchers note that more studies are needed to understand the link between debt and physical health, it’s clear that millennials may be paying a higher price for debt than previously thought.
At the very least, it’s just one more reason to start making progress on your debt.