Debt Is Making Young People Sick

Another argument against buying that car or home.

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So you still can't decide if you should empty your savings account to buy that starter home, trading a renter's lifestyle for a 30-year mortgage? Or maybe you're pondering an apartment you can't really afford, or a first car you're only kind-of convinced you need?

Perhaps this news will help you make up your mind: Researchers at Northwestern University have found that young people overwhelmed by debt have higher blood pressure and crummier mental and physical health, symptoms of the kind that lead to life-shortening problems like hypertension and strokes.

The researchers, led by Elizabeth Sweet, determined this using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health on 8,400 people between the ages of 24 and 32. Each was asked about their general health and debt levels, in particular how much they owed beyond their homes. They were also asked if they'd have anything left over if they liquidated everything they owned tomorrow, housing included (this is the layman's way of gauging debt-to-asset ratios).

Twenty percent of the people in the study admitted they would still be in the hole even if they unloaded everything right now. And these higher debt-to-asset ratios were associated with higher perceived stress, depression and blood pressure, and overall worse self-reported health. (Go to the hospital for all your debt-related health problems, and this cycle probably gets even worse.)

Put another way, maybe car-sharing is good for you.

8,400 young adults, ages 24 to 32 years old.
National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health
National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health
National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health

Hat tip L.A. Weekly.

Top image: zimmytws/Shutterstock.com

About the Author

  • Emily Badger is a former staff writer at CityLab. Her work has previously appeared in Pacific StandardGOODThe Christian Science Monitor, and The New York Times. She lives in the Washington, D.C. area.