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Sudden loss of wealth associated with increased risk of death

April 03, 2018

Bottom Line: Loss of wealth over two years among middle-aged and older adults in the U.S. was associated with an increased risk of death.

Why The Research Is Interesting: A sudden loss of wealth--a negative wealth shock--may lead to a significant mental health toll and also leave fewer monetary resources for health-related expenses. With limited years remaining to regain lost wealth in older age, the health consequences of a sudden loss of wealth may be long-lasting. Little is known about the potential long-term health consequences.

Who and When: 8,714 adults (ages 51 through 61 years at study entry) first assessed for a sudden loss of wealth in 1994 and then every two years through 2014.

What (Study Measures): Experiencing a sudden loss of wealth, defined as a loss of 75% or more of total net worth over a 2-year period, or asset poverty, defined as 0 or negative total net worth (exposures); death from any cause (outcome)

How (Study Design): This was an observational study. Researchers were not intervening for purposes of the study and cannot control all the natural differences that could explain the study findings.

Authors: Lindsay R. Pool, Ph.D., Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, and coauthors

Study Limitations: Analyses showed that less acute shock within two years (such as >25% or >50% loss) were associated with an increased risk of death, but less acute negative wealth shocks that take more than two years to be fully realized may have been missed.

Related material: The editorial, "From Misfortune to Mortality," by Alan M. Garber, M.D., Ph.D., Harvard University, Cambridge, is also available on the For The Media website.

For more details and to read the full study, please visit the For The Media website.

(doi:10.1001/jama.2018. 2055)

Editor's Note: Please see the article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.

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