Blog | Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Debt causes stress, which causes everything else

Debt causes stress, which is causing the common health complaints that are the bread and butter of a busy internal medicine practice.

There's certainly more people worrying about the economy, but does that really mean internists will see more patients? An AP-AOL Health poll suggests so.

The AP consulted with Paul J. Lavrakas, a research psychologist who created an index to measure how much people are stressed by debt. He analyzed the poll's results and suggested that the estimated 10 million to 16 million people with debt could have health problems.

Look at the symptoms that arise: digestive tract problems or worse pain from ulcers, migraines and headaches, anxeity and depression, muscle tension or low-back pain, and double the rate of heart attacks. They're what internists deal with daily, and are all linked to the fight-or-flight response to stress that, if it lingers, can affect everything about the body.

What's really stressful is that Mr. Lavrakas reported a link between credit card debt and health eight years ago, in what seems now like a serene economy that was pre-9/11, pre-tech bubble and pre-housing crisis.