Fluctuating personal income may be associated with an increased heart disease risk

Modesto Morganelli
Gennaio 9, 2019

"While income volatility and other longitudinal conceptualizations of income have gained recognition in medical research on the social determinants of health, in many epidemiologic studies, income is measured at a single point in time in the life course rather than repeatedly over time", the study authors wrote.

Participants were aged 23-35 years old in 1990 when the study began.

But nearly half experiencing at least some decreases in income and fluctuating income is more common among individuals who experience drops in income.

In the United States, the recent rise in income inequality suggests that a larger proportion of the population faces poverty and economic difficulties.

The study was unable to determine the cause of the association between income volatility and health because it was observational, rather than created to prove cause and effect.

People who had the most volatile incomes between 1990 and 2005 were a little more than twice as likely to develop heart disease and 78 percent more likely to die from any cause during the following decade, compared with people with the most stable incomes, Elfassy and her colleagues found.

Findings of a new research, however, show that unpredictable changes in one's income can also have devastating impact on a person's physical health. "For example, low-income patients with chronic diseases may give up medications and medical visits to cope with unexpected financial instability, resulting in increased risk of disease, including heart attack and stroke", according to the study.

Only about 5 percent of the sample had absolutely no changes in income during the 15-year period, while about 90 percent experienced at least one pay increase, the researchers reported. "While this study is observational in nature and certainly not an evaluation of such programs, our results do highlight that large negative changes in income may be detrimental to heart health and may contribute to premature death", said Tali Elfassy, an assistant professor at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Florida, Science Daily reports. "They also had less years of education than those who did not have income fluctuation".

Low wages may lead to unhealthy behaviours such as drinking, smoking or not exercising while juggling the finances may increase stress and blood pressure which is known to affect heart health.

Arnett said that it's hard to remain heart-healthy when you're facing the stress of a job loss or pay cut.

Elfassy said a number of criteria likely factor into the association.

The research was published Monday in the American Heart Association's journal Circulation.

The American Heart Association has more about stress and heart disease.

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