Study finds that debt for the middle-aged and seniors to be associated with increased depression

by Beth Salamon
Study finds that debt for the middle-aged and seniors to be associated with increased depression
Maxed out credit cards and medical bills are two debts often faced by older adults.

(Medical Xpress)—In addition to making you poor, debt might also be increasing your risk for depression. Many middle-aged and older Americans are finding that the debt they carry, from maxed out credit cards to crippling medical bills, may lead to depression and a lower sense of well-being, in addition to a financial squeeze.

The new research, published this month by Karen Zurlo, Assistant Professor for Rutgers School of Social Work,in the Journals of Gerontology: Social Sciences, has found that the amount of unsecured debt carried is a significant predictor of and lower psychological well-being. Thirty percent of survey respondents reported that they have unsecured debt, defined as debt where collateral is not secured against the dollar amount owed.

"The ease in access to credit has greatly increased the percentage of middle-aged and older adults with , and their amount of debt has skyrocketed in the recent decade. This has negative implications for well-being and may limit everything from their ability to retire to access to essential resources like food and shelter," says Zurlo.

From ongoing debt collection harassment to the threat of bankruptcy, middle-aged adults and seniors with debt live in a new and unsettling world. Unlike past generations, who built a nest egg during prime earning years and retired comfortably, debt is a major factor for many individuals today.

"Previous generations placed greater focus on saving and planning for the future. Today we see more people living in the moment and their purchases are reactive rather than focused on saving for retirement and planning for the future," says Zurlo.

In addition to these results, the study also found that perceived control over financial circumstance was a significant predictor of the absence of depressive symptoms. Reports of depression were significantly lower in those who were male, educated, married, healthy, and employed.

This is one bright spot, Zurlo relates, as those in debt might be able to increase feelings of perceived financial control through programs and services that offer debt counseling.

"The research found that those with a stronger sense of control showed fewer . This indicates that could benefit from financial counseling that increases their perception of control over their financial circumstances. The sense of powerlessness might be alleviated through counseling that promotes fiscal responsibility and problem solving," Zurlo says.

The National Council on Aging, in response to increased need, has developed financial counselling services for seniors through community-based models that help seniors to save and manage resources.

Data for this research were obtained from the 2006 Health and Retirement Study, a nationally-recognized survey, which used a psychosocial questionnaire that was completed by 5,817 adults age 51 and older. Well-being was assessed on three dimensions: self-acceptance, personal growth, and purpose in life. Depression was measured using the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression (CES-D) Scale.

Research on debt in middle age and later years is especially timely as the Federal Reserve recently released its Retirement Confidence Survey on March 18, which is formulated by the Employee Benefit Research Institute. According to their survey, reported worker savings remain low, and "only a minority appear to be taking basic steps to prepare for retirement." Fifty-eight percent of workers and 44 percent of retirees reported they were having a problem with their level of .

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Debt linked to mental health problems

Sep 26, 2013

New research, led by the University of Southampton, has shown that people in debt are three times more likely to have a mental health problem than those not in debt.

High debt could be hazardous to your health

Aug 15, 2013

If young people are drowning in debt, their blood pressure may be on the rise and their health could suffer. A new Northwestern Medicine® study has found that high financial debt is associated with higher diastolic blood ...

College students and credit card debt—parents at fault?

Oct 18, 2012

Parents need to be good role models to help their children make sensible financial decisions, according to Adam Hancock and his team, from East Carolina University in the US. Their work highlights that parents who argue about ...

Educational debt of pediatric residents increasing

Jan 07, 2013

(HealthDay)—For pediatric residents, educational debt is increasing and has an independent effect on clinical practice goals, according to a study published online Jan. 6 in Pediatrics.

Recommended for you

Intervention program helps prevent high-school dropouts

Oct 24, 2014

New research findings from a team of prevention scientists at Arizona State University demonstrates that a family-focused intervention program for middle-school Mexican American children leads to fewer drop-out rates and ...

Bilingualism over the lifespan

Oct 24, 2014

It's a scene that plays out every day in Montreal. On the bus, in schools, in the office and at home, conversations weave seamlessly back and forth between French and English, or one of the many other languages represented ...

User comments