In 2020, the average U.S. student debt at graduation from university or college ranged from $18,350 in Utah to almost $40,000 in New Hampshire, according to The Institute for College Access & Success.
Student Debt Linked to Poor Heart Health
Researchers used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (also known as Add Health), which included over 20,000 adolescents in grades 7 through 12.
Participants were first interviewed in 1994-95 and then four more times between then and 2018. During the last round, around 4,200 people aged 33 to 44 years old now underwent medical exams, including providing blood samples.
Researchers calculated each person’s risk of cardiovascular disease based on several factors such as sex, age, blood pressure, use of high blood pressure treatments, cigarette smoking, diabetes, and body-mass index. In addition, participants answered questions about their student debt during the third and fifth rounds of interviews.
Of those, 37 percent reported no student debt at those times; 12 percent had paid off their student loans by then; 28 percent took out student loans during those times, and 24 percent had student debt throughout.
Researchers found that people who consistently had student debt or took on debt had higher cardiovascular risk scores compared to people who had never had student debt or had paid off their loans.
Race and ethnicity did not have any significant impacts on the results. Overall, the findings build on existing knowledge that student debt burdens impact how people self-report their health and mental health.
Based on these findings that holding debt in student life makes a future cardiovascular event more likely, researchers also expressed concerns about potential consequences for population health.