Sudden Financial Loss May Shorten Your Life, Study Suggests

People who experience a large financial loss may subsequently have problems with their health, according to a new study published in JAMA. Researchers found that those who had a “negative wealth shock”—or 75 percent loss of their household net over a two-year period—were much more likely to die early than people who were financially stable. The average loss was about $100,000.

The sudden loss of wealth was more dangerous to the health of those living in poverty, reported Fortune.

Researchers from Northwestern University and the University of Michigan examined the financial and physical health of over 8,000 Americans aged 51 to 61 over the course of 20 years. Around 25 percent endured a negative wealth shock, and more than 2,800 died. Nearly 7 percent were considered impoverished.

Those who lost a large amount of wealth had a 50 percent higher chance of dying during the follow-up period, according to researchers. Poverty was associated with a 67 percent higher chance of demise. Those who lost their homes due to financial crisis were even more likely to die as were those with fewer assets.

The researchers noted: “A negative wealth shock in late middle and older age may lead to permanent change in economic status because income-earning potential is reduced and thus there is less ability to financially recover from the shock.”

There are a few reasons why becoming financially unstable can contribute to an earlier death. It may be difficult to pay for medical care, and/or people may postpone medical appointments. And those who had expensive medical problems that prompted the wealth shock are more likely to be affected negatively.

People who lose a large amount of money are also susceptible to mental health issues, including suicide, depression, substance abuse, as well as stress-related issues.

“Stress of wealth shocks may also produce physiological changes; wealth shocks have been associated with short-term increases in systolic blood pressure and inflammation, which in turn may increase the risk of cardiovascular mortality,” the researchers noted.

The study noted that further research is needed to better understand the correlation between loss of wealth and mortality and whether targeted interventions can be helpful.

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