The impact of savings and credit on health and health behaviours: an outcome-wide longitudinal approach

  • Piotr BiałowolskiEmail author
  • Dorota Węziak-Białowolska
  • Tyler J. VanderWeele
Original article



This study evaluated decisions related to debt and savings on physical health, emotional health and health behaviours.


The longitudinal data from the Polish biennial household panel—Social Diagnosis Survey—were used. Evidence for a link between credit/savings and health/health behaviours was presented using three waves of the data and an outcome-wide regression analysis. To circumvent endogeneity, variables temporally prior to exposure were used as controls. Sensitivity analysis for unmeasured confounding, conducted using E-values, provided a check for robustness.


Debt proved a significant stressor, affecting three of five physical health measures. Over-indebted individuals suffered even more in terms of physical health outcomes. The role of savings in physical health was much less significant, yet had significant bearing on measures of emotional health. In terms of emotional health, debt (over-indebtedness in particular) influenced loneliness and increased suicidal thoughts. With respect to health behaviours, savings appeared significant in reducing smoking and increasing uptake of sport activities, while debt had no significant effect in these areas.


Recommendations are formulated to foster saving activity and develop institutional solutions for over-indebtedness.


Credit Savings Health behaviour Health Longitudinal study Outcome-wide regression 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Data availability

The authors declare that the data used in the study are fully anonymized and originate from freely available source (

Informed consent

All respondents gave the informed consent before the participation. Data were collected through self-reported questionnaires. This manuscript reflects original work.

Supplementary material

38_2019_1214_MOESM1_ESM.docx (16 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 16 kb)


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Copyright information

© Swiss School of Public Health (SSPH+) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Arts and Sciences, The Institute for Quantitative Social ScienceHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA
  2. 2.Department of Environmental Health, Sustainability and Health Initiative (SHINE)Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public HealthBostonUnited States
  3. 3.Department of ManagementWSB UniversityDąbrowa GórniczaPoland
  4. 4.Department of EpidemiologyHarvard T. H. Chan School of Public HealthBostonUSA

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