The effect of household wealth on financial debt after cancer diagnosis.

TitleThe effect of household wealth on financial debt after cancer diagnosis.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsHussaini, S, Dana, M, Nicholas, LHersch
JournalJournal of Clinical Oncology
ISBN Number0732-183X
Keywordscancer diagnosis, Debt, household wealth

Background: Cancer is the 2nd most common cause of death in the country, eclipsed only by heart disease. Cancer care is increasingly characterized by financial toxicity related to high-cost treatments, though it is unknown whether other chronic conditions impose similar financial harms. Methods: We conducted a retrospective analysis of the Health and Retirement Study participants interviewed between 2012-2018. This is a national, longitudinal survey conducted every two years of adults 50 and older and their spouses. We used fixed effect regression models to compare changes in financial debt among households with new diagnosis of cancer, other major chronic conditions (diabetes, stroke, or heart disease), and no new health diagnosis (or health shock). Since more affluent households may respond to health shocks differently, we estimated separate comparisons for households above versus below median wealth in 2012, prior to new health conditions. We assessed use of any non-housing financial debt, credit card debt, and home equity lines of credit among the subset of homeowning households. Results: In this study of 14,153 households, average age at interview was 62 years, with 43% male, 70% White, 22% Black, 13% Hispanic, and 70% with up to high school education. Of this population, 25% held credit card debt, 70% owned a home, 18% had a home equity line of credit, and 9% used a home equity line of credit. Among households with below median wealth when they entered the study in 2012 ( < $23,000 in $2016), a new cancer diagnosis was associated with a 4.7 percentage point increase in financial debt (12.5% effect size, p < 0.05). Participants diagnosed with a chronic condition (heart condition, stroke or diabetes) were 3.6 percentage points more likely to develop financial debt (9.6%, p < 0.05) compared to households that did not develop a new chronic condition. Such differences were eliminated in participants in a house with above median wealth. There was no difference in credit card debt, availability of home equity line of credit, or use of home equity line of credit for participants with a new diagnosis. Conclusions: New diagnosis of cancer or a chronic condition were associated with increased financial debt for older Americans living in a household that were below median wealth.

Citation Key11656