The Perils of a Wealth Shock

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Suffering a major financial loss could lead to an early death, a new study suggests. Researchers at Northwestern University analyzed the financial history and health records of nearly 9,000 Americans between ages 51 and 61, from 1994 to 2014. During that period, about 25 percent of the subjects experienced a negative “wealth shock,” measured as a minimum 75 percent drop in their net worth over a two-year period. The median net-worth decrease was just over $100,000. The researchers found that the people who lost their nest egg were 50 percent more likely to die than their peers during the study period, and had the same risk of premature death as those who were poor or in debt. “This is something millions of people go through,” lead researcher Lindsay Pool tells Time.com. “It’s not really a rare event.” Pool and her team say a sudden reversal of fortune can lead to depression, high blood pressure, anxiety, and other health issues. People in financial turmoil may also have trouble affording their prescriptions and medical care.

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