DENVER — Exercise regularly, be mindful of your diet, and pay off your credit card bills? That very well may be the new mantra for a long life, as a study finds high debt could lead to an early death. Conversely, those who owe very little are less likely to die at a younger age.
Researchers looked at approximately 170,000 credit reports from the Federal Reserve’s Consumer Credit Panel, a nationally representative sample of U.S. consumers and their household members with information in the consumer credit data system. In addition to credit data, the reports show age, geographic location, and a notation for individuals who died while part of the panel, which has kept tabs on participants since 1999.
The authors found a negative association between delinquent debt and health, when measured by mortality, and a positive association between credit-worthiness and health.
They also found the participants in the panel who cut down their debt in a quarter and increased their credit scores by 100 points, they could improve their mortality risk by 4 percent the following quarter. Those who went from having no serious debt in a quarter to any severely delinquent accounts saw a 5 percent increase in dying.
The study, titled “Killer Debt: The Impact Of Debt On Mortality,” shows that economic downturns in particular can deal serious blows to an individual’s overall outlook. “It seems clear that debt resulting from a financial crisis has lasting effects on health that are substantial enough to increase mortality rates,” the authors write.
According to the study, 69 percent of all U.S. households hold some kind of debt. Perhaps the new findings will push more Americans to pay off their bills on time, spend less, and live longer, healthier lives.
The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Colorado, Denver in conjunction with Federal Reserve Economist M. Melinda Pitts.