Sick of our loans: Student borrowing and the mental health of young adults in the United States

Source: Katrina M. Walsemann, Gilbert C. Gee, Danielle Gentile, Social Science & Medicine, Volume 124, January 2015
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From the abstract:
Student loans are increasingly important and commonplace, especially among recent cohorts of young adults in the United States. These loans facilitate the acquisition of human capital in the form of education, but may also lead to stress and worries related to repayment. This study investigated two questions: 1) what is the association between the cumulative amount of student loans borrowed over the course of schooling and psychological functioning when individuals are 25–31 years old; and 2) what is the association between annual student loan borrowing and psychological functioning among currently enrolled college students? We also examined whether these relationships varied by parental wealth, college enrollment history (e.g. 2-year versus 4-year college), and educational attainment (for cumulative student loans only). We analyzed data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 (NLSY97), a nationally representative sample of young adults in the United States. Analyses employed multivariate linear regression and within-person fixed-effects models. Student loans were associated with poorer psychological functioning, adjusting for covariates, in both the multivariate linear regression and the within-person fixed effects models. This association varied by level of parental wealth in the multivariate linear regression models only, and did not vary by college enrollment history or educational attainment. The present findings raise novel questions for further research regarding student loan debt and the possible spillover effects on other life circumstances, such as occupational trajectories and health inequities. The study of student loans is even more timely and significant given the ongoing rise in the costs of higher education.