Household Debt and Adult Depressive Symptoms

39 Pages Posted: 16 Jan 2013

See all articles by Lawrence M. Berger

Lawrence M. Berger

University of Wisconsin-Madison, Institute for Research on Poverty and School of Soical Work

J. Michael Collins

University of Wisconsin - Madison

Laura Cuesta

University of Wisconsin-Madison, Institute for Research on Poverty and School of Social Work

Date Written: January 15, 2013

Abstract

This study uses data from waves 1 (1987-1989) and 2 (1992-1994) of the National Survey of Families and Households in the United States and a series of standard ordinary least squares (OLS) regressions and OLS regressions with individual-specific fixed effects to estimate associations of particular types and levels of debt with adult depressive symptoms. Results suggest that household debt is positively associated with greater depressive symptoms. However, this association is driven by short-term (unsecured) debt; we find little evidence of associations with depressive symptoms for mid- or long-term debt. The link between short-term debt and depression is generally robust to alternative specifications of our models, including whether debt is defined in absolute or relative terms. Furthermore, these associations are particularly concentrated among 51 to 64 year old adults and those with a high school education or less. These findings suggest that short-term debt may have an adverse influence on psychological wellbeing, particularly for those who are less educated or are approaching retirement age.

Keywords: CES-D, consumer debt, debt, depression, household debt, National Survey of Families and Households, psychological well-being

JEL Classification: C81, D14, I31

Suggested Citation

Berger, Lawrence M. and Collins, J. Michael and Cuesta, Laura, Household Debt and Adult Depressive Symptoms (January 15, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2200927 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2200927

Lawrence M. Berger (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin-Madison, Institute for Research on Poverty and School of Soical Work ( email )

Madison, WI 53706
United States

J. Michael Collins

University of Wisconsin - Madison ( email )

United States
6086160369 (Phone)

Laura Cuesta

University of Wisconsin-Madison, Institute for Research on Poverty and School of Social Work ( email )

School of Medicine and Public Health
1300 University Avenue
Madison, WI 53706
United States

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