As the use of student loans escalates, so too do conversations about the possible ramifications of increasingly high debt for young Americans. It's widely known that inability to pay student debt can result in a host of problems, like damaged credit or garnished wages, but a new study from the University of South Carolina suggests that some ill effects, such as increased stress levels or feelings of depleted health, can surface just from accumulating student-loan debt.
It’s been well documented that financial strain can have measurable mental and physical effects. A 2013 study published in Anxiety, Coping and Stress, for instance, found that “those with greater financial strain perceived more stress, had more symptoms of depression, anxiety, and ill-health.” And significant or growing debt, can be a major cause of overall financial stress.
The study from the University of South Carolina looked at the link between student-loan debt and psychological function in 25-to-31-year-olds and currently enrolled students. Researchers factored in issues like what type of college they attended (two-year versus four-year), what degree was earned, and how wealthy their families were, in order to assess what the consequences of climbing loan totals might be, and what factors might mitigate any mental and physical consequences.
It’s no surprise that the study found that using debt to finance a college education can take its toll. “Cumulative student loans were significantly and inversely associated with better psychological functioning,” according to the results. That means, generally speaking, student-loan debt was not great for the mental health of study participants.