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Fluctuating personal income may be associated with an increased heart disease risk

January 07, 2019

DALLAS, Jan. 7, 2019 -- Sudden, unpredictable drops in personal income during young adulthood are associated with an increased risk of developing heart disease and/or dying from any cause, according to new research in the American Heart Association's journal Circulation.

In the United States, the recent rise in income inequality suggests that a larger proportion of the population faces poverty and economic difficulties. In addition, while most people experience some income change, income volatility has been on the rise and has reached a record high level since 1980.

The study found that the biggest fluctuations in personal income were significantly associated with nearly double the risk of death and more than double the risk for cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attacks, strokes, heart failure or death during the following 10 years compared to a similar group of people with less fluctuation in personal income. Women and African-Americans were more likely to experience high income volatility and income drops than white men.

"Income volatility presents a growing public health threat, especially when federal programs, which are meant to help absorb unpredictable income changes, are undergoing continuous changes, and mostly cuts," said study lead author Tali Elfassy, Ph.D., assistant professor at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in Florida.

"While this study is observational in nature and certainly not an evaluation of such programs, our results do highlight that large negative changes in income may be detrimental to heart health and may contribute to premature death," Elfassy said.

The study analyzed data from the ongoing Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study that is following 3,937 people living in four diverse U.S. cities - Birmingham, Alabama; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Chicago, Illinois; and Oakland, California.

Participants were aged 23-35 years old in 1990 when the study began.

The researchers collected data on changes in income in five assessments from 1990 to 2005. They measured income volatility as the percent change in income from one measurement to the next, and income drop as a decrease of 25 percent or more from the previous assessment. Between 2005 and 2015, the researchers assessed fatal and non-fatal cardiovascular events and all causes of death using medical records and death certificates.

The study was not able to determine the cause of the association between income volatility and health because it was observational and not designed to prove cause and effect.
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Co-authors are Samuel L. Swift, M.P.H.; M. Maria Glymour, Sc.D.; Sebastian Calonico, Ph.D.; David R. Jacobs, Jr., Ph.D.; Elizabeth R. Mayeda, Ph.D.; Kiarri N. Kershaw, Ph.D.; Catarina Kiefe, Ph.D., M.D.; and Adina Zeki Al Hazzouri, Ph.D. Author disclosures are on the manuscript.

The National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association funded the study.

Additional Resources:

* Available multimedia located on the right column of the release link: https://newsroom.heart.org/news/fluctuating-personal-income-may-be-associated-with-an-increased-heart-disease-risk?preview=f67c3192f00b814bf907010a47db5c34

Statements and conclusions of study authors published in American Heart Association scientific journals are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect the association's policy or position. The association makes no representation or guarantee as to their accuracy or reliability. The association receives funding primarily from individuals; foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical, device manufacturers and other companies) also make donations and fund specific association programs and events. The association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing the science content. Revenues from pharmaceutical and device corporations and health insurance providers are available at http://www.heart.org/corporatefunding.

About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is a leading force for a world of longer, healthier lives. With nearly a century of lifesaving work, the Dallas-based association is dedicated to ensuring equitable health for all. We are a trustworthy source empowering people to improve their heart health, brain health and well-being. We collaborate with numerous organizations and millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, advocate for stronger public health policies, and share lifesaving resources and information. Connect with us on heart.org, Facebook, Twitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.

American Heart Association

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