Skip to content

Losing Your Wealth In Late Middle-Age and Increased Risk of Death

Of course! The results of this study made perfect sense to me - that losing your wealth or savings in late middle-age is such a mental shock ("negative wealth shock") that it increases the risk of death for any reason ("all cause mortality") tremendously over the next 20 years. About 50% increased risk of death. For example, if you have to live off your savings after you get laid off or can't work due to illness, and perhaps even lose your house to foreclosure, is STRESSFUL beyond belief. Almost incomprehensible to anyone who has not personally gone through it.

On top of that, a person may then not be able to afford to go to the doctor, even if there is a problem, once they're financially stressed. And of course they may never financially recover because the "negative wealth shock" happened at an older age (the people were 51 to 61 at the start of the study).

Other research conducted at time of the Great Recession showed significant associations between negative wealth shocks and short-term health changes - including increased risk of depression, anxiety, suicide, impaired cardiovascular function, and substance abuse. And now we know that long-term there is an increased risk of death. From Science Daily:

Losing your nest egg can kill you

A sudden loss of net worth in middle or older age is associated with a significantly higher risk of death, reports a new Northwestern Medicine and University of Michigan studyWhen people lose 75 percent or more of their total wealth during a two-year period, they are 50 percent more likely to die in the next 20 years, the study found. 

"We found losing your life-savings has a profound effect on person's long-term health," said lead author Lindsay Pool, a research assistant professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "It's a very pervasive issue. It wasn't just a few individuals but more than 25 percent of Americans had a wealth shock over the 20 years of the study." Though the rate of savings loss spiked during the Great Recession, middle- and older-age Americans consistently lost savings across the 20-year period, regardless of the larger economic climate. 

"Our findings offer new evidence for a potentially important social determinant of health that so far has not been recognized: sudden loss of wealth in late middle or older age," said senior author Carlos Mendes de Leon, professor of epidemiology and global public health at University of Michigan's School of Public Health.

The study also examined a group of low-income people who didn't have any wealth accumulated and who are considered socially vulnerable in terms of their health. Their increased risk of mortality over 20 years was 67 percent.

The likely cause of the increased death risk may be twofold. "These people suffer a mental health toll because of the financial loss as well as pulling back from medical care because they can't afford it," Pool said.

The new study builds on prior research in the wake of the Great Recession from 2007 to the early 2010s. Those studies examined short-term health effects such as depression, blood pressure and other markers of stress that changed as peoples' financial circumstances took a nosedive.

The study was based on data from the Health and Retirement Study from the National Institute on Aging (NIA). Started in 1992, the longitudinal study follows a representative group of U.S. adults 50 years and older every two years. More than 8,000 participants were included in the Northwestern study.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *