Varieties of Financial Stressors and Midlife Health Problems, 1996-2016.

Academic Article


  • OBJECTIVES: Financial stressors such as wealth loss, indebtedness, and bankruptcy have gained the attention of public health scholars since the Great Recession. In this study, we extend this area of research by comparing the mental and physical impact of multiple financial stressors during midlife, a pivotal period in the life course for wealth accumulation and disease onset. METHODS: With data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (, an ongoing survey of adult men and women in the United States, we used logistic regression to estimate the associations between financial stressors and the risk of a psychiatric disorder or high blood pressure diagnosis from ages 31-39 in 1996 to ages 50-59 in 2016 (N = 7,143). Financial stressors include multiple types of wealth loss, debt, and bankruptcy. RESULTS: Even after adjusting for a comprehensive set of confounders, many of the financial stressors we considered had similar positive associations with the risk of a psychiatric disorder, whereas only debt and bankruptcy were associated with the risk of high blood pressure. The best-fitting models for both health outcomes included a simple indicator of indebtedness. Stock losses were not significantly associated with either health outcome. DISCUSSION: Given the recent volatility in the U.S. economy, our results highlight the potential loss of health that may occur if nothing is done to prevent economically vulnerable populations from sliding into financial crisis. Our results also emphasize the need for additional research to develop individual-level interventions to improve health among those already experiencing financial difficulties.
  • Authors


  • Bankruptcy, Debt, Financial stressors, High blood pressure, Psychiatric disorders, Wealth shocks
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    Author List

  • Wolfe JD; Baker EH; Uddin J; Kirkland S