Money worries may contribute to heart disease in black Americans, a new study suggests.
“Stress is known to contribute to disease risk, but the data from our study suggest a possible relationship between financial stress and heart disease that clinicians should be aware of as we research and develop interventions to address social determinants of health disparities,” said study senior author Dr. Cheryl Clark. She is a hospitalist and researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
Her team analyzed data gathered between 2000 and 2012 from more than 2,200 participants in a long-term study examining heart disease in black men and women in the Jackson, Miss., area.
None of the participants had evidence of heart disease at the start of the study. They were asked to rate the level of stress they had in several areas, including financial struggles, such as difficulty paying bills and running out of pocket money.
Compared to those without financial stress, the risk of heart disease was nearly three times higher among those with moderate-to-high financial stress, and nearly two times higher among those with mild financial stress, the investigators found.
The combination of three important heart disease factors — depression, smoking and diabetes — appeared to explain some of the connection between financial stress and heart disease risk, the study authors said.
The findings suggest that financial stress may play a role in the development of heart disease, in combination with other factors such as lifestyle habits, other health conditions and mental health, the researchers concluded.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and black Americans are disproportionately affected. This is the first study to examine the association between financial stress and heart disease in black Americans.
The findings do not prove a causal link between financial stress and heart disease risk, and the authors could not determine whether short-term or long-term financial stress is enough to raise heart disease risk, the authors noted.
However, they said their results should trigger further research into how financial stress may affect heart disease risk and encourage policies to reduce such stress.
“The information from this study covered experiences men and women had during the recession of 2007 and beyond,” said Clark. She is also the director of Health Equity Research and Intervention at Brigham’s Center for Community Health and Health Equity.
“As we think about policies to prevent heart disease, we need to know a lot more about how economic volatility and financial stress may be connected to heart disease so that we can prevent unnecessary stress that may affect heart health,” she concluded in a hospital news release.
The study was published online Jan. 17 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more on heart disease risk factors.