• Individuals with poor health who consider their debt a heavy burden are more likely to remain feeling this way two years later than those with good health (58% for those with poor health compared to 34% for those with good health). In other words, those with poor health are more likely to remain feeling stuck with a debt burden than those with good health. 
  • Individuals with good health who consider their debt a heavy burden are more likely to no longer feel this way two years later than those with poor health (66% for those with good health compared to 42% for those with poor health). In other words, those with good health are more likely to alleviate themselves from feeling burdened by their debt than those with poor health. 

This chart shows the proportion of those who consider their debt a heavy burden who continue to feel this and who no longer feel this way two years later, by self-rated health status in 2014–16. Self-rated health – where people are asked to assess their overall health – is a good proxy for health outcomes generally. Here, self-rated health has been grouped into ‘good health’: consisting of ‘good’ and ‘very good’ health; and ‘poor health’: consisting of ‘fair’, ‘poor’ and ‘very poor’ health. Individuals with non-mortgage debt are asked to what extent they find keeping up with the repayment of their debt a ‘heavy burden’.  

Prolonged exposure to a stressor, such as debt problems, can increase the chance of harm to health. So those who already have poor health are more likely to continue to be exposed to problem debt compared to those with good health. 

Individuals can move from considering their debt a heavy burden one year to no longer considering their debt a heavy burden the next year, and vice versa. 

  • The majority (58%) of those with poor health who consider their debt a heavy burden remain feeling this way two years later, compared to just a third (34%) of those with good health. 
  • Of those with good health who feel their debt is a heavy burden, the majority (66%) escape feeling that their debt is a heavy burden two years later, compared to just 42% for those with poor health.  

This chart shows that good health is an asset, to the extent to which it may contribute to leaving problem debt.  

The mechanism by which this happens may reflect the stronger labour market position of those with good health. 

 

Good health may help individuals escape feeling that debt is a heavy burden while poor health may contribute to prolonging this feeling. It is important therefore to acknowledge the role of health in triggering and exacerbating debt. Specifically, there are questions on how to ensure debts remain manageable without becoming a problem as well as how to ensure debt services are appropriate and accessible for those with health conditions. 

  • Self-rated health has been grouped into ‘good health’: consisting of ‘good’ and ‘very good’ health; and ‘poor health’: consisting of ‘fair’, ‘poor’ and ‘very poor’ health. Due to limitations in the data, this chart does not include transitions in health status between the two periods. Instead, health status is measured in the 2014-16 period. 
  • Individuals were asked: ‘Thinking about the [overdraft(s)/credit card(s)/store card(s)/ credit agreement(s)/loan(s)/bill payments] you have just told me about, to what extent is keeping up with the repayment of them and any interest payments a financial burden to you?’ This analysis looks at the proportion of all respondents who live in a household that finds debt repayments a ‘heavy burden’. Other options include ‘somewhat of a burden’ and ‘not a problem at all’. 
  • Individuals included in this analysis are aged 16 to 62 in 2014–16 and 18 to 64 in 2016–18 in recognition that they will have aged by two years since the first time period. 

Source: Health Foundation analysis of Wealth and Assets Survey 2014-16 and 2016-18 • This analysis only includes people who consider their debt a heavy burden in 2014-16.

 

 

Long read

Debt and health

20 January 2022

About 17 mins to read

Long read

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