Just four years of financial trouble can make you age faster: Study

New research at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, says that for just four years of financial troubles is enough to trigger changes in the body.

Myupchar September 24, 2019 14:07:18 IST
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Just four years of financial trouble can make you age faster: Study
  • New research at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, says that for just four years of financial troubles is enough to trigger changes in the body

  • Interestingly, poverty or financial hardships did not affect people as badly in their younger years

  • However, this study was limited to a specific set of the European population - there has been a lot of research on how Caucasian and Asian bodies respond differently to the same stimuli

We all wish to live a healthy, youthful and long life. But what if empty pockets and meagre bank balance make us age faster than our peers?

New research at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, says that for just four years of financial troubles is enough to trigger changes in the body - in women more than men, and middle-aged people more than younger adults.

Just four years of financial trouble can make you age faster Study

Representational image. Image source: Getty Images

Intuitively, it makes sense. Stress, anxiety, depression are all known to hasten the body’s ageing process. Now, there's more science behind it.

The set-up

Researchers at the Department of Public Health at Copenhagen University studied 5,575 late-middle-aged adults, of whom 18% had faced poverty between 1987 and 2008.

For the study, the research team led by Rikke Lund categorized people whose income was 60% less than the national average income over a 22- year-period as low-income adults.

Of course, Denmark has one of the highest national average incomes in the world. According to one estimate, Danish nationals make around US $60,000 a year now - this sum is more than what UK nationals make in a year (just over $41,000) and what Australians take home annually on average (over US $53,000). The same data set shows that Indians make about $2,020 on average annually.

Wealth-health link

The researchers compared the participants’ performances on physical activities like rising from a chair, grip strength, jumping and balance as well as cognitive function.

The result: the researchers found that the people who had lived in poverty for four years or more not only performed poorly in the physical and cognitive tests compared with those who had not faced financial setbacks in their adulthood, but they had also developed health conditions like high inflammatory markers that are associated with cancer and infections in their blood.

Interestingly, poverty or financial hardships did not affect people as badly in their younger years.

A few caveats

The link between money problems and ageing may be interesting globally, but it’s important to take this study with a pinch of salt. For starters, this study was limited to a specific set of the European population - there has been a lot of research on how Caucasian and Asian bodies respond differently to the same stimuli. In other words, we need India-specific studies to gauge with any certainty the link between money and health here.

Secondly, most participants in this research were in their late-middle age - a time when the body often starts to show signs of ageing like hardening of blood vessels and other long-term illnesses like hypertension anyway. It is harder to isolate the cause for faster ageing in people when they’re already at this threshold.

That said, there is a growing interest in ways to keep the geriatric population healthy across the Western world. This research also falls within that ambit. Given that India's expected lifespan has increased from 47.72 years to 68.56 years in the last half-century, we need more studies on ageing and health in this country, too.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health. For information on diseases that affect the older population more, please read our articles on heart disease and arthritis.

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