Study: Losing Money While Young can Lead to Heart Disease Later

Study: Losing Money While Young can Lead to Heart Disease Later
General Health
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You’re working hard, paying your bills, and enjoying a social life on the side when, all of a sudden, you lose your job. Life isn’t so easy anymore. You worry about how you’re going to pay your rent and put gas in your car. Income fluctuations are stressful, and can lead to numerous health issues. One study found that when you lose money in young adulthood in particular, the risk for heart disease increases.

A recent study published in the journal Circulation shows that unexpected dips in income for young adults nearly double the risk of death and cause a more-than-50% increase in the likelihood of developing cardiovascular diseases, including heart attack, stroke, and heart failure during the following 10 years when compared to people with a steadier income.

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Study leader Tali Elfassy, an assistant professor at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in Florida, said:

“Income volatility presents a growing public health threat, especially when federal programs, which are meant to help absorb unpredictable income changes, are undergoing continuous changes, and mostly cuts.”

Beginning in 1990, Elfassy and colleagues focused on people who had lost 25% or more of their income. The team looked at cardiovascular events among participants that resulted in death or illness between 2005 and 2015.

The study looked at people in 1990, between the ages of 23 and 35, living in Birmingham, Alabama; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Chicago, Illinois, and Oakland, California.

Most of the income fluctuations reported in the study were caused by periods of unemployment or pay cuts after changing jobs. Black people and women were more likely to experience income fluctuations, the study found. [2]

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The researchers were surprised by how much of an effect income instability appeared to have on heart health.

Elfassy said:

“We assumed that income drops or frequent changes in income were probably not good for health, considering that these are thought of as stressful events. But we were surprised by the magnitude of the effect we saw since we were looking at a relatively young population. These were strong effect sizes.”

The study didn’t look at what drives the link between drops in income and an increased risk for heart disease. However, stressful events are known to contribute to obesity and high blood pressure, both of which are risk factors for heart disease.

Moreover, having a lower socioeconomic status has been linked to poorer health, as people with lower incomes tend to smoke more, exercise less, and see their doctor less frequently, all of which can contribute to heart problems.

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Elfassy said: [1]

“While this study is observational in nature and certainly not an evaluation of such programs, our results do highlight that large negative changes in income may be detrimental to heart health and may contribute to premature death.”

In the U.S., approximately 1 in 4 deaths are attributed to heart disease, which can be worsened by smoking and hypertension.


[1] UPI

[2] Time