People who are not able to repay their student loan or take on new ones between young adulthood and early middle age are at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular illnesses, according to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
The study found that the pressure of repaying the loan can weaken the usual mental and physical health benefits of completing the degree. It added that those who managed to repay their student loans had better or the same heart health risk when compared to those who never took one.
The researchers said that the findings are an indication of the fact that relieving the burden of student debt among adults can also improve the overall health of a country's population, according to a report in The Independent.
The researchers analysed data from the US' National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, a long-term health study of nearly 21,000 people. The subjects involved in the study were assessed for 44 years.
"Previous research showed that, in the short term, student debt burdens were associated with self-reported health and mental health, so we were interested in understanding whether student debt was associated with cardiovascular illness among adults in early mid-life," said lead author Adam M. Lippert.
The study suggested that degree completion did provide health benefits to those who had student loans, but these benefits were diminished relative to non-debtors.
The researchers analysed the biological measures of cardiovascular health of as many as 4,193 qualifying respondents using the 30-year Framingham cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk score.
The CVD score takes into account sex, age, blood pressure, smoking status, diabetes diagnosis, body weight and other factors to predict the likelihood of a cardiovascular illness over the next 30 years of a person's life.
The respondents who consistently had debt had a higher CVD risk score as opposed to those who never took any student loan and those who managed to pay off their debts. Interestingly, people who were able to pay off their college debt had a lower CVD risk score than those who never took one.
"Unless something is done to reduce the costs of going to college and forgive outstanding debts, the health consequences of climbing student loan debt are likely to grow," added Dr. Lippert.