A sudden financial loss in middle or older age may significantly increase the risk of death, a study has found.
When people lose 75 per cent or more of their total wealth during a two-year period, they are 50 per cent more likely to die in the next 20 years, according to researchers.
“We found losing your life-savings has a profound effect on person’s long-term health,” said Lindsay Pool from Northwestern University in the US. “It is a very pervasive issue. It was not just a few individuals but more than 25 per cent of Americans had a wealth shock over the 20 years of the study,” Pool said.
The research, published in the journal JAMA, is the first to look at the long-term effects of a large financial loss.
“Our findings offer new evidence for a potentially important social determinant of health that so far has not been recognised: sudden loss of wealth in late middle or older age,” the researchers said. The study examined a group of low-income people who did not have any wealth accumulated and who were considered socially vulnerable in terms of their health. Their increased risk of mortality over 20 years was 67 per cent. “The most surprising finding was that having wealth and losing it is almost as bad for your life expectancy as never having wealth,” Pool said.
“These people suffer a mental health toll because of the financial loss as well as pulling back from medical care because they can’t afford it,” she added.