Marshall, G. L., Ingraham, B., Major, J., Kahana, E., Stansbury, K.
OBJECTIVE: This study investigated the associations between various financial hardship and debt indicators and mental health status among older adults. METHODS: Using data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), we considered the association between different forms of financial hardship and debt of those who were identified as having high levels of depressive symptoms (N = 7678) and anxiety (N = 8079). Financial hardship indicators: difficulty paying bills, food insecurity, and medication need; debt indicators: credit card and medical debt. Associations were tested using multiple logistic regression analyses and are reported as relative risk (RR) ratios and 95% confidence intervals (CIs). RESULTS: Participants who had difficulty paying bills were more likely to have high levels of depressive symptoms (RR = 2.06, CI = 1.75-2.42, p < 0.001) and anxiety (RR = 1.46, CI = 1.02-2.05, p < 0.001) compared to those who did not have financial difficulty. Similarly, medical debt was associated with depressive symptoms (RR = 1.43, CI = 1.14-1.74, p < 0.01) and anxiety (RR = 1.20, CI = 0.96-1.50, p < 0.01). Credit card debt was not significantly associated with either mental health outcome. CONCLUSION: Indicators of financial hardship and medical debt were associated with depressive symptoms and anxiety in a cohort of older adults. In contrast, the influence of credit card debt appeared to be more complex and vary by individual. These findings indicate that doing without meeting personal salient needs has a particularly adverse effect on psychological well-being.