Debt Linked to Health Concerns in Young Adults
Heavy debt loads could be causing higher blood pressure in young people according to a new Northwestern Medicine study. The study found that high financial debt is connected with higher diastolic blood pressure and could affect physical and mental health in young adults.
The study shows that those with higher debt have a statistically significant 1.3 percent increase in diastolic blood pressure. Researchers report that a 2 percent increase in diastolic blood pressure is associated with a 15 percent higher risk of stroke and a 17 percent higher risk of hypertension.
Individuals with high debt reported higher levels of perceived stress as well as depression.
The study was published in the August issue of Social Science and Medicine. It used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health that studied 8,400 young adults, ages 24 to 32 years old.
Here are some tips for paying down debt:
- Know how much you owe. Collect each of your bills with outstanding debts, including all credit cards, mortgage, student loans, auto loans, personal loans and bank loans. Create a list of all the creditors with the monthly payment amount, balance, interest rate and credit limit for each. Verify the payment due dates and the status of the account.
- If you carry a balance on your credit card from one month to the next, stop paying for purchases and daily expenses with that card. You will pay a high interest penalty on every purchase you make. If you charge meals, entertainment or clothing on your credit card, you could still be paying these off years later, long after the purchases are forgotten. Put away the credit cards and use cash for purchases. Cash is the most immediate, painful form of payment and it will make you think twice about each purchase.
- Call and ask for lower interest rates. Credit card issuers don’t act on this as often as they used to, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. If you get turned down, politely ask to speak to the supervisor and ask again. If you have received an offer for a card with a lower rate, ask your issuer to match it. Tell them you will be shopping around for another card if they don’t lower your rate. If you are a good customer, they may be willing to work with you to keep your business. If your rate is lowered, add the amount you saved to your payment so you can pay your balance down faster.
- Pay more than the minimum amount every month on credit card loans and student loans. Minimum payments are set at one to five percent of your monthly balance. While it makes your monthly payment smaller, it takes a long time to pay it off and you will pay much more in interest. Your credit card bill is now required to show exactly how long it will take to pay off your balance if you just pay the minimum amount each month.
- Obtain a free copy of your credit report and review it for errors. Inaccuracies could pull down your credit score and cause higher interest rates on your loans. Correct the errors and contact your creditors to notify them about your improved score and ask for a lower rate. You can receive one free credit report each year from the three major credit reporting agencies. Obtain these reports at AnnualCreditReport.com.
- Pay all bills on time. Missed payments bring financial penalties which can make a bad situation worse. Miss several payments and your lender will send your loans to a collection agency. Bankruptcy does not eliminate student loan debt (it does eliminate credit card debt).
- Prioritize which bills to pay first. If you can’t pay off all your monthly bills, the first priority is to pay the bills that are a necessity for health, shelter, groceries and basic transportation. Then, pay the secured loans such as your car loan. Payments on unsecured loans, such as most credit cards, should come last in these critical situations.
- If you are in danger of missing a payment, contact your creditors as soon as you realize you have a problem. They may be willing to work out a payment plan, lower your rate or decrease your monthly payment. Explain that you are in debt, the steps you are taking to repay it and what you can pay today. Document all conversations, including whom you spoke with, the date, time and the results. If your debt problems are more than you can handle, contact the National Foundation for Credit Counseling to get a debt repayment plan.
- Some jobs help you pay back student loans. Here are several that may help you get some of your debt forgiven: teaching in a low-income area, practicing dentistry and medicine with underserved groups or regions, law students working in public interest or with non-profits, jobs in public service, and volunteering in AmeriCorps, Peace Crops and Volunteers in Service to America.