Seniors and the Stress of Sudden Financial Loss

Greatest Stress is on Seniors who Lose their Homes

Sudden financial loss is stressful for everyone. However, for seniors over the age of 65 sudden financial loss can be deadly. In fact, according to a study published April 3, in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), seniors who suffered a sudden major financial loss had  a 50% chance of death from all causes during the 20 year period following the financial loss. The study was carried out by researchers from Northwestern University School of Medicine.

The Health and Retirement Study

Participants in the study were 8714 middle-aged and American seniors. They were aged 51-61 at the beginning of the study. All of them had experienced a major financial loss in 1994. They were followed up for 20 years until 2014.

The Stress of Sudden Financial Loss Led to Several Disease Conditions

The stress of sudden financial loss led to a higher risk for several mental and physical disease conditions that could lead to early death such as:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Substance abuse
  • Suicide
  • Cardiovascular diseases and events such as heart attacks, stroke, high blood pressure and sudden cardiac death.

Greatest Stress was Found for Seniors who Lost their Homes

The greatest stress was found for seniors who lost their homes. In other words, losing their nest had a greater risk for bad outcomes than for those who lost only their nest-egg. Those seniors who managed to keep their homes fared better.

Stress Increases the Risk for Chronic Diseases

According to research, stress increases the risk for developing and worsening chronic diseases such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Asthma
  • Depression
  • Migraine headaches
  • Gastrointestinal problems like ulcers, colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and diverticulitis
  • Weakening of the immune system

Study also Dealt with Stress in Financially Disadvantaged People

The study also dealt with a group of people who were financially disadvantaged and had lived all of their lives in poverty. These disadvantaged seniors had a 67% chance of early death during this same 20 year follow up period. In other words, those who suffered a sudden financial loss had about the same risk for early death as those who had lived all of their lives in poverty.

Intervention must be found to Prevent Premature Death Following a Major Financial Loss

The researchers concluded that an intervention must be found to prevent premature death from all causes in people who suffer from a sudden financial loss.

Previous Research Showed the Destructive Effects of Stress

Stress Worsened Alzheimer’s Disease in Rats

A study published May 25, 2011 in the Journal of Neuroscience showed that stress worsened Alzheimer’s disease in rats. In fact, some researchers think that lowering stress levels might slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Alzheimer’s disease is the number one leading cause for dementia in the United States.

Stress may Hasten Aging

A study published December 2, 2004 in PNAS found that stress can also speed up the rate of aging by 9-17 years. Participants in the study were 58 pre-menopausal women.

Stress from Chronic Disease led to Financial Stress

The Older Adult Survey by the Federal Reserve System, showed that stress from a chronic disease caused financial stress in 30% of seniors. Chronic diseases can be very costly and this puts a lot of financial stress on people. This becomes a vicious cycle as the extra financial stress in turn can lead to even further damage to the health of those with chronic diseases.

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Sudden financial stress can cause the development of diseases, worsen chronic illnesses and lead to early death.

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