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Debt Linked With High Blood Pressure, Poor Health Among Young Adults: Study

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It's no secret that young Americans are facing more debt than previous generations. But all that owed money isn't just taking a toll on financial health, according to a new study -- it could also be making young Americans sick.

Researchers from Northwestern University found that adults ages 24 to 32 with high financial debt are more likely to have poorer self-reported health (both mental and physical), as well as higher diastolic blood pressure. (Diastolic blood pressure is the bottom number on a blood-pressure reading; WebMD defines it as indicative of "the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests between beats").

"You wouldn't necessarily expect to see associations between debt and physical health in people who are so young," study researcher Elizabeth Sweet, assistant professor of medical social sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said in a statement. "We need to be aware of this association and understand it better. Our study is just a first peek at how debt may impact physical health."

The study, published in the journal Social Science and Medicine, is based on data from 8,400 people ages 24 to 32. The study participants' self-reported depression and stress levels, as well as objective blood pressure levels, were taken. Researchers also analyzed their level of debt by asking them how much they owed (ranging from "less than $1,000" to "$250,000 or more), as well as the question: "Suppose you and others in your household were to sell all of your major possessions (including your home), turn all of your investments and other assets into cash, and pay off all of your debts. Would you have something left over, break even or be in debt?"

Researchers found that the people in the study with higher debt had a 1.3 percent increase, compared with the average, in diastolic blood pressure. While this percentage may seem small, the researchers noted that a diastolic blood pressure increase of just two points raises stroke risk by 15 percent.

Plus, people with higher debt in the study were more likely to say that they felt stressed or depressed, compared with the average.

The findings are particularly striking, given the average amount of student loan debt was $28,720 in 2012, HuffPost Business reported.

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