Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Student loans and racial disparities in self-reported sleep duration: evidence from a nationally representative sample of US young adults
  1. Katrina M Walsemann1,
  2. Jennifer A Ailshire2,
  3. Gilbert C Gee3
  1. 1Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior, University of South Carolina, Arnold School of Public Health, Columbia, South Carolina, USA
  2. 2University of Southern California, Davis School of Gerontology, Los Angeles, California, USA
  3. 3Department of Community Health Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, Fielding School of Public Health, Los Angeles, California, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Katrina M Walsemann, Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior, University of South Carolina, Arnold School of Public Health, 915 Greene Street, Room 529, Columbia, SC 29208, USA; kwalsema{at}


Background Student loans are the second largest source of personal debt in the USA and may represent an important source of financial strain for many young adults. Little attention has been paid to whether debt is associated with sleep duration, an important health-promoting behaviour. We determine if student loans are associated with sleep duration. Since black young adults are more likely to have student debt and sleep less, we also consider whether this association varies by race.

Methods Data come from the US National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997. The main analytic sample includes 4714 respondents who were ever enrolled in college and who reported on sleep duration in 2010. Most respondents had completed their college education by 2010, when respondents were 25 to 31 years old. Multivariable linear regression models assessed the cross-sectional association between student loans accumulated over the course of college and sleep duration in 2010, as well as between student debt at age 25 and sleep duration in 2010.

Results Black young adults with greater amounts of student loans or more student debt reported shorter sleep duration, controlling for occupation, hours worked, household income, parental net worth, marital status, number of children in the household and other sociodemographic and health indicators. There was no association between student loans or debt with sleep for white or latino adults and other racial/ethnic groups.

Conclusions Student loans may contribute to racial inequities in sleep duration. Our findings also suggest that the student debt crisis may have important implications for individuals’ sleep, specifically and public health, more broadly.


Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.