A sudden loss of net worth in middle or older age is associated with a significantly higher risk of death, reports a new Northwestern Medicine and University of Michigan study.
When people lose 75 percent or more of their total wealth during a two-year period, they are 50 percent more likely to die in the next 20 years, the study found.
Though the rate of savings loss spiked during the Great Recession, middle- and older-age Americans consistently lost savings across the 20-year period, regardless of the larger economic climate.
The study, which will be published in JAMA, is the first to look at the long-term effects of a large financial loss. The study also examined a group of low-income people who didn't have any wealth accumulated and who are considered socially vulnerable in terms of their health. Their increased risk of mortality over 20 years was 67 percent.
The most surprising finding was that having wealth and losing it is almost as bad for your life expectancy as never having wealth.
The new study builds on prior research in the wake of the Great Recession from 2007 to the early 2010s. Those studies examined short-term health effects such as depression, blood pressure and other markers of stress that changed as peoples' financial circumstances took a nosedive.
The study was based on data from the Health and Retirement Study from the National Institute on Aging (NIA). Started in 1992, the longitudinal study follows a representative group of U.S. adults 50 years and older every two years. More than 8,000 participants were included in the Northwestern study.