Reducing The Student Debt Burden Could Enhance Population Health

Relieving the burden of student debt could improve population health as individuals with student loan debt into early middle age have a higher risk of cardiovascular illness, suggest research.

According to research published in the Elsevier-distributed American Journal of Preventive Medicine, adults who did not pay off their school loans or accrued new ones between early adulthood and midlife have an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Adults who paid off their school debt had better or comparable health than people who had never experienced debt, indicating that reducing the student debt burden could enhance population health.

“As the cost of college has increased, students and their families have taken on more debt to get to and stay in college. Consequently, student debt is a massive financial burden to so many in the United States, and yet we know little about the potential long-term health consequences of this debt.

Previous research showed that, in the short term, student debt burdens were associated with self-reported health and mental health, so we were interested in understanding whether student debt was associated with cardiovascular illness among adults in early mid-life,” explained lead investigator Adam M. Lippert, PhD, Department of Sociology, University of Colorado Denver, Denver, CO, USA. The National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health), a panel survey of 20,745 teenagers in Grades 7 through 12, was used to provide the study’s data. The first interviews took place in the school year 1994-1995. Data from Wave 3 (when respondents were between the ages of 18 and 26) and Wave 5 (when respondents were between the ages of 22 and 44) were collected in four further waves. Participants in Wave 5 were invited to home medical examinations.

Respondents who consistently had debt had higher CVD risk scores and vice versa

The 30-year Framingham cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk score, which considers sex, age, blood pressure, antihypertensive treatment, smoking status, diabetes diagnosis, and body mass index to measure the likelihood of a cardiovascular illness over the next 30 years of life, was used by researchers to evaluate biological measures of cardiovascular health of 4,193 qualifying respondents.

C-reactive protein (CRP), a biomarker of persistent or systemic inflammation, was also examined. According to the categories listed below, the investigators divided student debt into four groups: never had student debt, paid off debt between Waves 3 and 5, acquired debt between waves, and consistently in debt. For respondent household and family variables, such as education, income, and other demographics, models were modified. The researchers found that more than one-third of respondents (37%) did not report student debt in either wave, while 12% had paid off their loans; 28% took on student debt; and 24% consistently had debt.

Respondents who consistently had debt or took on debt had higher CVD risk scores than individuals who had never been in debt and those who paid off their debt. Interestingly, respondents who paid off debt had significantly lower CVD risk scores than those never in debt. For those who took on new debt or were continually in debt during young adulthood and the beginning of midlife, they discovered clinically relevant CRP value estimates that were higher than those of their counterparts who never had debt or paid it off. Race and ethnicity had no bearing on the outcomes.

Health consequences of climbing student loan debt likely to grow

Additional analyses revealed that, overall, earning a degree is good for your health, even if you have student loan debt, however, these advantages were lower than they would be for people without debt. Dr. Lippert noted that these data highlight the possible population health effects of the US education system’s shift to debt financing. Even though there is strong factual support for the economic and health benefits of a college education, borrowers must pay a price for these benefits.

“Our study respondents came of age and went to college at a time when student debt was rapidly rising with an average debt of around $25,000 for four-year college graduates. It’s risen more since then, leaving young cohorts with more student debt than any before them,” Dr. Lippert said. “Unless something is done to reduce the costs of going to college and forgive outstanding debts, the health consequences of climbing student loan debt are likely to grow.”

Story Source:
Materials provided by Elsevier. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:
Adam M. Lippert, Jason N. Houle, Katrina M. Walsemann. Student Debt and Cardiovascular Disease Risk Among U.S. Adults in Early Mid-Life. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2022; DOI: 10.1016/j.amepre.2022.02.002

Page citation:
Elsevier. “Student debt can impair your cardiovascular health into middle age, study finds.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 May 2022. <>.

Help is here:
Name of the Organisation: India Heart Foundation: The India Heart Foundation is a collective that works with doctors from across the country empowering them to reach out to the people around them better. They are creating medical educational resources and building a global cardiovascular community to promote cardiovascular health at a regional and national level.
Contact: Telephone: +91 8220277777

Name of the Organisation: Vandrevala Foundation
Vandrevala Foundation is a non-profit that partners with organizations to help communities thrive by providing education and healthcare. Vandrevala Foundation launched a mental health helpline in India in 2009 to offer free psychological counselling and crisis mediation to anyone experiencing distress due to depression, trauma, mood disorders, chronic illness, and relationship conflict.
Contact: Email:
Telephone: +91 9999 666 555  

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