Black/white differences in the relationship between debt and risk of heart attack across cohorts.

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Numerous studies show that increasing levels of education, income, assets, and occupational status are linked to greater improvements in White adults' health than Black adults'. Research has yet to determine, however, whether there are racial differences in the relationship between health and debt and whether this relationship varies across cohorts.


Using data from the 1992-2018 Health and Retirement Study, we use survival analyses to examine the link between debt and heart attack risk among the Prewar Cohort, born 1931-1941, and Baby Boomers, born 1948-1959.


Higher unsecured debt is associated with increased heart attack risk for Black adults, especially among Baby Boomers and during economic recessions. Higher mortgage debt is associated with lower risk of heart attack for White but not Black Baby Boomers. The relationship between debt and heart attack risk remains after controlling for health behaviors, depressive symptoms, and other economic resources that are concentrated among respondents with high levels of debt.


Debt is predictive of heart attack risk, but the direction and strength of the relationship varies by type of debt, debtors' racial identity, and economic context.





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Hamil-Luker, Jenifer, and Angela M O'Rand (2023). Black/white differences in the relationship between debt and risk of heart attack across cohorts. SSM - population health, 22. p. 101373. 10.1016/j.ssmph.2023.101373 Retrieved from

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