Student Loan Debt Can Lead to Poorer Health, Middle-Age Malaise

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People saddled with big college loans are more likely to suffer from poor health and have a less upbeat attitude to life in middle age, a poll of graduates shows. Gallup Education and Purdue University asked some 30,000 Americans who earned four-year degrees in the last 24 years to gauge their well-being by evaluating their physical health, ties to community, financial stability and sense of purpose in life. Debt-laden graduates scored lower in all four than their debt-free counterparts, sometimes by a wide margin. Only 25 percent who started with more than $50,000 in debt are thriving financially, 15 percentage points lower than debt-free grads. Even among those graduating prior to 2000, there was a 13-percentage-point gap. Older grads also scored lower on measures of physical health and a sense of purpose in life, although they pulled nearly even in community ties.


- Martha C. White