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Negative wealth shock and short-term changes in depressive symptoms and medication adherence among late middle-aged adults


Background Experiencing a negative wealth shock in late middle age may cause high levels of stress and induce reductions in health-related consumption.

Methods We used data on late middle age individuals (51–64 years) from the longitudinal US-based Health and Retirement Study (N=19 281) to examine the relationship between negative wealth shock and short-term outcomes that serve as markers of the pathways from wealth shock to health: elevated depressive symptoms, as a marker of the stress pathway and cost-related medication non-adherence (CRN), as a marker of the consumption pathway. Negative wealth shock was considered to be a loss of total net worth of 75% or more.

Results Using a nested cross-over approach—a within-person design among exposed individuals only that adjusts by design for all time-invariant individual characteristics—we found that negative wealth shock was significantly associated with increased odds of elevated depressive symptoms (OR=1.50, CI 1.10 to 2.05), but was not significantly associated with higher odds of CRN (OR=1.18, CI 0.76 to 1.82), even after further adjustment for time-varying sociodemographic and health covariates.

Conclusions Negative wealth shock during late middle age confers an increased risk of elevated depressive symptoms, but does not change levels of CRN. Personal and policy factors that may buffer the mental health risks of negative wealth shock, such as social support and social welfare policy, should be considered.

  • Epidemiological methods

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