Unsecured Consumer Debt and Mental Health Outcomes in Middle-Aged and Older Americans

TitleUnsecured Consumer Debt and Mental Health Outcomes in Middle-Aged and Older Americans
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsZurlo, KA, Yoon, W, Kim, H
JournalThe Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
KeywordsHealth Conditions and Status, Other

Objectives. Unsecured consumer debt may affect well-being negatively. We evaluated the association between unsecured debt and two distinct outcomes: depressive symptomatology and psychological well-being.Method. Data were obtained from the 2006 Health and Retirement Study. There were 5,817 adults aged 51 who responded to a core survey and psychosocial leave-behind questionnaire. Depressive symptoms were assessed using the revised 8-item Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale. Psychological well-being was evaluated in a leave-behind questionnaire that had 3 dimensions: self-acceptance, personal growth, and purpose in life.Results. Thirty percent of the respondents had unsecured debt. The magnitude or amount of unsecured debt and the occurrence of unsecured debt were significant predictors of depressive symptoms and lower psychological well-being. Perceived control over personal financial circumstances was a significant predictor of higher psychological well-being.Discussion. In middle-aged and older Americans, unsecured debt has negative effects on mental health because of the associated depressive symptoms and decreased psychological well-being. The deleterious effects of unsecured debt on mental health are largely accounted for by perceived control over personal financial circumstances. Interventions enhancing older adults control over personal financial circumstances may protect against the psychological decrements experienced by those grappling with unsecured debt.

Endnote Keywords

Depression/Finances/control beliefs/depressive symptoms/Psychological well-being/Quality of life

Endnote ID


Citation Key7986