Neither a borrower nor a lender be: The relative importance of debt and SES for mental health among older adults

Academic Article


  • Objective:This study examines the impact of indebtedness on depressive symptomatology, anxiety, and anger. Method: We use data from a two-wave panel study of adults in Miami-Dade County. The analytic sample consists of 1,463 mostly older respondents with valid data on all study measures, including education, income, occupational status, wealth, and debt. Results: We find that indebtedness is common and is associated with more symptoms of depression, anxiety, and anger. It is weakly associated with other aspects of socioeconomic status (SES), and thus not redundant with them. In fact, in this sample, debtor status is more consistently associated with mental health than any other single traditional indicator of SES, its effect does not vary across income or other aspects of SES, and fears of never paying off debt account for its negative impact on mental health. Discussion: These findings affirm health scholars' calls for more complete measures of SES. © 2012 The Author(s).
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Drentea P; Reynolds JR
  • Start Page

  • 673
  • End Page

  • 695
  • Volume

  • 24
  • Issue

  • 4