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Sudden Financial Losses May Result In Early Death

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Experiencing a big financial loss might contribute to an early death in middle-aged Americans, a new study suggests.

People in their fifties onwards who suffered from a devastating economic blow were more likely to die in the following years compared to those who did not, CBS News reports. This heightened danger after a large loss, which researchers refer to as “wealth shock,” were the same across socio-economic lines. This means events affected people no matter where their money came from, or how rich they were.

Researchers analyzed over 9,000 people’s experiences and found an emphasis on the link between money and well-being. Previous studies have associated lower incomes and rising income inequality with more chronic diseases and earlier mortality.

Lindsay Pool of Northwestern University’s medical school, lead researcher, said,

This is really a story about everybody. Policymakers should pay attention.

Stress, delays in getting health care, substance abuse and suicides may all contribute to this death rate, she said.

Researchers analyzed data covering twenty years from the Health and Retirement Study, which checks on a group of people in their 50s and 60s every other year. Around one in 4 people in the study experienced wealth shock, which the researchers defined as losing 75% or more in net worth over the course of two years. The average loss was an estimated $100,000.

Wealth shock was tied to a 50% higher risk of dying, though there was no direct cause and effect established. The losses could include drops in investment values, or home foreclosures. Some sources of shock were during the Great Recession of 2007-2009. No matter the source of the shock or what was happening in the US economy, wealth shock still increased the chances of dying.

In an accompanying editorial, Alan Garber of Harvard University stated that these findings indicate wealth shock to be as dangerous as a new kind of heart disease. Doctors should be aware of how financial difficulties might be affecting their patients.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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