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Will wealth loss lead to the end of one’s life?

  • Crystal Ng
  • April 5, 2018
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  • Chicago researchers found that sudden wealth loss increases mortality rate.
  • Majority of the affected individuals belong to the middle-age group.

The Journal of the American Medical Association published a finding on Tuesday. It confirms what we have known for some time now. Apparently, losing a fortune really can end one’s life. This came from a group of researchers based in Chicago. They have coined the term “wealth shock” in describing said condition. The phrase points to the loss of wealth within a short duration. This, in turn, causes people to be stuck in a state of shock. This, in turn, escalates the risk of dying.

Participants in the study included 8,714 middle-aged adults, specifically around the age of 51 to 61. A “negative wealth shock” is used to label those who have suffered a loss of 75 percent of their assets within the span of two years.

Dr. Lindsay Pool is a research assistant professor in the field of preventive medicine at the Northwestern University who has contributed to this research significantly. In an interview with NPR, she has expressed her disbelief towards the statistical data.

“That was surprising. A 50 percent increased risk of mortality over a 20-year period is a lot.”

“You would hope that having had some money at some point would provide some protective effect,” she added.

The underlying causes of the increased rate of mortality lie behind the psychological impact it has on the affected individual. This might seem counterintuitive, but the sheer experience of going through a wealth loss will undoubtedly lead to one’s emotional distress. As a result, the stress, depression and high blood pressure will take a toll on their physical beings.

Dr. Alan M. Garber is a senior administrative officer of Harvard University. In an editorial published alongside the study, he asserted:

“Whether it is the consequence of unfortunate decisions or unavoidable circumstances, financial loss and ruin can disrupt lives and can be both a result and a harbinger of catastrophic decline in health. The intriguing study by Pool and colleagues in this issue of JAMA raises an important question that has been easier to explore with anecdotes and hypothetical examples than by analyzing population data: is financial ruin a harbinger of physical decline? Specifically, are people who lose much of their wealth more likely to die?”

The analysis of the findings further explains the correlation between a loss of wealth and medical illness, “… because medical expenses from major illness can be a primary trigger of negative wealth shock in middle-aged and older adults, it can be difficult to disentangle the effect of negative wealth shocks on subsequent health outcomes from the effect of the medical illness itself.”

Dr. Pool proceeds to hint at the unaffordability of current health care.

“It could be not going to the doctor as much. At this age group, a lot of people may be on prescription medications and they could not be taking their medications as prescribed because they can’t afford the co-pays.”

Middle-aged Americans make up the majority of those who suffer from wealth shock. In fact, the studies have shown that women have a higher chance of experiencing a wealth shock than men. Fortunately for the ladies, since women naturally have a longer lifespan compared to men, the increased mortality will only level the playing field.

This research has been going on for a long time and can be dated back to 1994. The researchers have followed up with participants every two years thereafter up till four years ago. Amidst the 8,714 participants, they found that 2,430 were affected by wealth shock. On top of that, 749 of them were experiencing asset poverty from the start.

Unfortunately, 2,823 participants passed away in the process.

The studies, therefore, conclude that the rate of mortality was 30.6 deaths per 1000 person-years for those who did not suffer a significant loss of wealth. On the contrary, for those who have suffered from the negative wealth shock and those who were generally less fortunate, the number was 64.9 and 73.4 respectively.

Well, to the people who insist that money isn’t everything, it seems like this findings have proven otherwise.

Featured image via flickr/ 401(K) 2012

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The concept of time is lost on me as I venture into the world of business, politics, technology and all other matters concerning recent events. No matter where I am; out in the big cities or isolated in the desert, writing is seemingly the only constant in my life.