Why Financial Stress Can Kill You?

Why Financial Stress Can Kill You?

John Nosta 24/12/2021
Why Financial Stress Can Kill You?

A sudden loss of wealth in middle or older age can increase mortality 50 percent.

Take a look at the stock market. Valuations and therefore wealth can shift greatly from day to day. And with valuation, I would imagine that heart rate variation will do the same thing. These are stressful times.

But what toll does this financial stress really take on an individual?

Data suggest that the toll is significant and alarming. A paper in JAMA examined 8714 adults aged 51 to 61 years who experienced a negative wealth shock and followed this group for 20 years. Wealth shock was defined as a loss of 75% or more of total net worth over a 2-year period, or asset poverty, defined as zero or negative total net worth at study entry.

Simply put, the group experiencing wealth shock had a 50% greater death rate over controls. Yes, 50% greater! That's a significant number and one often in the range of those numbers in clinical trials where conditions such as high cholesterol or elevated blood pressure therapies are evaluated. The mortality was from all causes and didn't reflect one particular condition such as a heart attack or cancer. Nevertheless, these data were highly significant (95% confidence interval).

A look deeper deeper into the data raised even more questions. While the authors looked at financial considerations associated with all-cause mortality, they carefully examined those underlying causes. Associated with this type of financial crisis, depression, anxiety, suicide and substance abuse can also factor into the complex clinical and social dynamic. Further, a significant loss of income may decrease the utilization of healthcare and lead to poorer outcomes. 

In a related finding from a few years ago, research demonstrated that stress and depressive symptoms lead to the occurrence of heart attack. In this study, participants with concurrent high stress and high depressive symptoms had increased risk for myocardial infarction or death by about 50% relative to those with low stress and low depressive symptoms. There was no analysis of financial status in this study. 

Interestingly, In these two studies, the authors chose language that captured this concern. In the first, we have "wealth shock" and in the second the authors define this high stress condition as the "perfect storm." Both leverage interesting non-clinical terms to define what may be dire circumstances that are life-threatening. In today's world, stress—from money to social issues—can be a powerful factor in health and wellness. And it's been said that health is wealth, and it might be just as true that wealth could be health too.

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John Nosta

Digital Health Expert

John is the #1 global influencer in digital health and generally regarded as one of the top global strategic and creative thinkers in this important and expanding area. He is also one the most popular speakers around the globe presenting his vibrant and insightful perspective on the future of health innovation. His focus is on guiding companies, NGOs, and governments through the dynamics of exponential change in the health / tech marketplaces. He is also a member of the Google Health Advisory Board, pens HEALTH CRITICAL for Forbes--a top global blog on health & technology and THE DIGITAL SELF for Psychology Today—a leading blog focused on the digital transformation of humanity. He is also on the faculty of Exponential Medicine. John has an established reputation as a vocal advocate for strategic thinking and creativity. He has built his career on the “science of advertising,” a process where strategy and creativity work together for superior marketing. He has also been recognized for his ability to translate difficult medical and scientific concepts into material that can be more easily communicated to consumers, clinicians and scientists. Additionally, John has distinguished himself as a scientific thinker. Earlier in his career, John was a research associate at Harvard Medical School and has co-authored several papers with global thought-leaders in the field of cardiovascular physiology with a focus on acute myocardial infarction, ventricular arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death.

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