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A Sudden Financial Tragedy May Shorten Life Of Middle-Aged People, Study Suggests

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A financial crisis that hits during the midlife may increase a person's chances of premature death, a new study claims. Middle-aged adults who lose money so quickly — or the so-called negative wealth shock — are more likely to die early.

Nearly 9,000 people were studied for the experiment, which went on for two decades, with the participants starting at 55 years old on average. Overall, 9 percent of the subject pool were in debt or had no net worth at the beginning of the study. Meanwhile, 28 percent experienced negative wealth shock and lost at least 75 percent of their finances within just two years. On average, the wealth shock victims lost as much as $100,000.

Sudden Financial Crisis Linked To Early Death

Nearly 3,000 people died during the study, and the researchers discovered that participants who suddenly experienced a financial crisis proved 50 percent more likely to die during the experiment, as detailed in the report published in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

"In this prospective cohort study that included 8714 adults aged 51 to 61 years at study entry, participants who experienced a negative wealth shock during the 20-year follow-up compared with those with continuous positive wealth had a significantly increased risk of mortality."

The analysis makes important points about the connections between finances and well-being, especially when prior studies have suggested that lower incomes and income inequality have links to shorter life expectancy.

"This is really a story about everybody," says research lead Lindsay Pool of the Northwestern University. "Policymakers should pay attention."

Negative Wealth Shock

While negative wealth shock was tied with a 50 percent greater risk of dying, the study doesn't offer any cause-and-effect connection, nor does it prove that suffering from a great financial loss immediately means that you're going to die early. The study simply establishes a connection between those two phenomena.

"This study does not prove that loss of wealth directly causes illness and death," said Alan Garber of Harvard University. "It shows that they go hand-in-hand."

The researchers stress that further research is needed to better understand the potential mechanisms for the links they've found. More importantly, more studies may help researchers determine whether there could be potential value in targeted interventions.

"Having wealth and losing it suddenly carries almost the same risk for premature mortality as never having wealth," claims Pool. She also notes that poverty has long held links with an increased chance of early death. Previous studies have also implied that sudden loss of finances may contribute to anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, and others.

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