Student Debt Affects Graduates' Health, Overall Well-Being

News & Views | Gerren Keith Gaynor | 08/08/2014 | 10:00 AM EDT

A Gallup poll determines that borrowing a high amount of student loans breaks more than one's bank account

Student loans don’t just take a big chunk out of your bank account - it can also have negative effects on your health.

A new survey conducted by Gallup discovered that college graduates who carry high amount of student debt face long-term challenges far beyond their finances. Those who received their degrees between 1990 and 2014 with debt $50,000 or more are less likely than their peers who did not borrow to thrive in “five elements of their well-being,” which includes purpose, financial, social, community and physical.


But the two areas where high borrowers fair the least are their physical and financial well-being.

The results used in the analysis were taken from the Gallup-Purdue Index, which is based on a survey of more than 11,000 U.S. adults.

Gallup reports:

As college costs rise and enrollment increases, the amount of outstanding undergraduate student debt in the U.S. continues to climb. The amount of student debt now stands at over $1 trillion for both undergraduate and graduate loans and exceeds Americans' overall credit card debt, according to the Federal Reserve. In particular, estimates put the average amount of undergraduate student loan debt for the class of 2014 at just over $33,000, a substantial increase from $18,600 in 2004.

The study only looked at money borrowed for undergraduate education, and the participants were not asked where they stood on their loans. According to the index, more than half (59 percent) of the respondents borrowed some money to help pay for their college education. About 11 percent of the total graduates borrowed more than $50,000 for their degree.


Studies show that high student debt can result in one deferring major life events, such as marriage and homeownership, Gallup points out. High student debt can also result in a graduate pursuing a career path he or she would not have taken otherwise. These new insights from the Gallup-Purdue Index suggest high student debt may lead to lower well-being that lasts for many years after graduates receive their degrees.

The study notes that other factors, including socio-economic status, family’s household income and the type of school attended, also influence well-being.

(Photo: GettyImages)

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