When people are dealing with mountains of debt, they're much more likely to report health problems, too, according to an Associated Press-AOL Health poll. And not just little stuff; this means ulcers, severe depression, even heart attacks.
Although most people appear to be managing their debts all right, perhaps 10 million to 16 million are "suffering terribly due to their debts, and their health is likely to be negatively impacted," says Paul J. Lavrakas, a research psychologist and AP consultant who analyzed the results of the survey. Those are people who reported high levels of debt stress and suffered from at least three stress-related illnesses, he says.
That finding is supported by medical research that has linked chronic stress to a wide range of ailments.
And the current tough economic times and rising costs of living seem to be leading to increasing debt stress, 14% higher this year than in 2004, according to an index tied to the AP-AOL survey.
Among the people reporting high debt stress in the new poll:
• 27% had ulcers or digestive tract problems, compared with 8% of those with low levels of debt stress.
• 44% had migraines or other headaches, compared with 15%.
• 29% suffered severe anxiety, compared with 4%.
• 23% had severe depression, compared with 4%.
• 6% reported heart attacks, double the rate for those with low debt stress.
• More than half, 51%, had muscle tension, including pain in the lower back. That compared with 31% of those with low levels of debt stress.
So the fun and games are over. The Great Housing Bubble has popped. The pain from the debt is going to be felt in many, many ways both expected and unexpected.