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Your cardiovascular health can be compromised by student debt in the early stages of middle age

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Research has shown that people who do not pay off their college debts or take on additional educational debt in their twenties and thirties have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
The research findings were published in American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Individuals who had repaid student debt were healthier than those who didn’t. This suggests that student debt relief could lead to better health.
“Students and their families have taken on more student debt as college costs have risen. It is therefore a major financial burden for so many Americans, but we do not know the long-term consequences.
Lead investigator Adam M. Lippert PhD, Department of Sociology at University of Colorado Denver, stated, “Previous research has shown that student loan burdens are associated in the short-term with self-reported physical and mental health. So we were interested to understand whether student debt could be associated with cardiovascular illness in adults in early middle-life.”
The data used for the study were taken from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), which is a panel of 20745 adolescents who were interviewed in Grades 7-12 during the 1994-1995 schoolyear. Four waves of data followed, with Wave 3 when respondents were between 18 and 26, and Wave 5, when respondents were between 22-44. Wave 5 respondents were invited in-home to undergo medical exams.
Researchers used the 30-year Framingham cardiovascular disease risk score to assess the biological health of 4193 eligible respondents. This score considers sex and age as well as blood pressure and smoking status. It also includes body mass index. The goal of the study was to determine the likelihood of developing a cardiovascular disease in the next 30 year. C-reactive protein levels (CRP) were also assessed as a biomarker for chronic or systemic inflammation.
Investigators classified student debt in the following ways: Never had student debt; paid off debt between Waves 3 & 5, took on student debt between waves, and were consistently in debt. Modifications to the models were made for household and family characteristics, such as education, income, and any other demographics.
Research showed that over one-third (37%) of respondents did not report student loan debt in either wave. Twelve percent reported having paid off their student loans. 28 percent took on student credit and 24 percent were always in debt. The CVD risk scores of those who are in debt regularly or take on debt more than those who aren’t.
The CVD risk scores of respondents who had paid off debt were significantly lower than those who didn’t. Clinically significant CRP value estimates were found for those who had taken on new debt or were in debt continuously between the ages of 20 and 30. These estimates were significantly higher than those who did not have debt. Results were not affected by race/ethnicity.
Additional analyses showed that degree completion has health benefits for students with student debt even though these benefits were less than those who didn’t have student debt.
Dr Lippert noted that these findings highlight the potential health consequences for the US’s transition to debt-financed education. Although the evidence is overwhelming in favor of a college degree’s economic and health benefits, these benefits come at a price for the borrowers.
“Our study respondents were of age when student debt was quickly rising. Four-year college graduates had an average of $25,000 in student debt. It has risen more than ever since then, leaving younger cohorts with more student loan than ever before,” Dr Lippert stated.
“Unless you do something to reduce college costs and forgive any outstanding debts, the health implications of student loan debt growth are likely to increase.”

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