Student Loan Debt Is a Drag on Your Health
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The Fiscal Times
August 7, 2014

It’s no secret that graduating from college with high student debt will be a financial burden for years to come – but student debt could also affects your well-being and health.

Graduates with the greatest amounts of student debt – $50,000 or more – are less likely than debt-free grads to be thriving in terms of well-being, according to a new Gallup-Purdue Index released Thursday.

The index is a joint effort between Purdue University and the Lumina Foundation to study the relationship between the college experience and graduates’ lives. It looked at Americans who graduated from college between 1990 and 2014.

Related: ID Thieves Could Ruin a College Student’s Financial Future

Gallup defines well-being as consisting of five elements: finding fulfillment in daily work and interactions; having strong social relationships and access to vital resources; feeling financially secure; being physically healthy; and taking part in a true community.

Not surprisingly, the pollster found the starkest difference between graduates who sunk deepest into debt and those who didn’t take on any debt at all in the areas of financial and physical well-being. More specifically, high financial debt of all kinds, including student debt, has been associated with higher blood pressure and poorer self-reported general and mental health in young adults, according to a Northwestern University study published a year ago.

That study also found that people with high debt reported higher levels of perceived stress and higher depressive symptoms.

Related: Why High Debt Could Mean Financial Stability

However, Gallup noted that high student loan debt might not be the only reason for lower well-being. “Other factors that often determine whether students take out loans for college and how much they borrow may be the same factors that influence graduates’ future well-being,” it noted.

These other factors include the family’s household income, its socio-economic status, the type of school the student attended, the chosen field of study, and the student’s ability to get scholarships and financial aid.

There is currently more than $1 trillion in outstanding student debt for both undergraduate and graduate loans, exceeding American’s overall credit card debt, according to the Federal Reserve.

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Marine Cole has been covering finance and business for a decade and has written for publications that include The Wall Street Journal, Crain's New York Business, and AdvertisingAge.