The Impact of Chronic Financial Strain on the Health Status of Older Adults

Joan R. Kahn, University of Maryland
Leonard I. Pearlin, University of Maryland

In an effort to improve our understanding of persistent socioeconomic disparities in health, this paper examines the cumulative impact of financial strain over the life course on the health status of older Americans. Our study is based on data collected as part of the Aging, Stress and Health Study (funded by N.I.A., Leonard Pearlin, P.I.), which interviewed 1200 white and black men and women ages 65+ in a large metropolitan area in 2001. We rely on elders' reports of current health status and retrospective reports of financial difficulties they may have experienced during childhood, early adulthood, early and later middle age, and older ages. From these questions, we differentiate individuals who have experienced a lifetime with little or no financial stress from those who have had sporadic or more long-term episodes of financial difficulty. Moreover, we examine the impact of hardship at different points during the life course.

Presented in Session 36: Economic Status and Health Over the Life Course