Can Debt Raise Your Blood Pressure?

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A new study suggests large debt hurts not just financial health, but also physical and mental health.

High debt can mean high blood pressure, a new study from Northwestern University says — at least for young adults.

Researchers used data on 8,400 young adults, ages 24-32, to examine associations between debt and health. Here’s what it found:

  • 20 percent of participants said they would still be in debt even if they liquidated all assets.
  • A high debt-to-asset ratio was associated with high perceived stress (12 percent higher than average), depression (13 percent higher) and worse self-reported general health.
  • Those with high debt had a 1.3 percent increase in diastolic blood pressure compared with the average — which is a bigger deal than it might sound. “A two-point increase in diastolic blood pressure, for example, is associated with a 17 percent higher risk of hypertension and a 15 percent higher risk of stroke,” the study says.

Perceived stress, depression and general health were gauged by questioning participants, so those values are based on self-reported information. That means they’re a little fuzzy and prone to error. Blood pressure, though, was actually measured — so the scariest part of this study is likely the most accurate, even if it only included young adults.

We’ve written before that being debt-free is a huge quality-of-life benefit, on top of the financial ones. Now we know there are physical benefits too. If you’re ready to start destroying debt and need some help, start with the video below:

After that, check out our Money Makeover guide on destroying debt.

Stacy Johnson

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