Social Science & Medicine
Daniel A. Hojman, Álvaro Miranda, Jaime Ruiz-Tagle
In the last few decades, there was a marked increase in consumer debt in the United States, Latin America and other emerging countries, spurring a debate about the real costs and benefits of household credit. Using a unique longitudinal dataset with detailed health and balance sheet information from a large sample of 10,900 Chilean households we study the relationship between debt trajectories in a three-year time window and mental health. We find that depressive symptoms are higher for those who have been persistently over-indebted, followed by those who transit from moderate to high debt levels. We also find that those who transition from over-indebtedness to moderate debt levels have no additional depressive symptoms compared to those with trajectories of moderate debt throughout (never over-indebted). This suggests that the debt-related contribution to depressive symptoms vanishes as debt levels fall. The association between debt and depressive symptoms seems to be driven by non-mortgage debt -primarily consumer credit- or late mortgage payments; secured debt (secured by collateral) per se is not associated with depressive symptoms. Policy interventions to reduce the negative association of over-indebtedness on mental health are discussed.
Debt, Over-indebtedness, Credit, Depression