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Debt and Health

By P. Lenton and P. Mosley


Debt problems in the UK have recently become much more severe, especially for the lowest income groups, and we examine here their impact on health, using data from the national Families´ and Children´s Survey (FACS). We model the relationship between debt and health as a simultaneous two-way interaction, and find that debt levels have a negative effect on both physical and psychological health. We find that debt repayment structure, defined as the percentage of debt borrowed in high-interest categories, has an impact on health independent of the level of debt. The interaction between debt and health may aggravate the poverty trap, by pushing heavily-indebted low-income people into ill-health, which then makes it difficult for them to acquire or hold on to the steady jobs needed to ease their debt problems. We also find that worry has a negative influence on debt management capacity, and thence on health, which makes it more difficult for those caught in a debt trap to escape from it. Membership of credit unions tends to reduce worry, however, and thereby may facilitate escape from the debt-ill health spiral.\u

Publisher: Department of Economics, University of Sheffield
Year: 2008
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