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

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International Journal of Public Health



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.

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  1. Such products, although probably not sufficiently strengthening the link by economic incentive, are already present on the market. Allegacy Federal Credit Union offers all health account that links interest payments to physical activity of its members (


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Correspondence to Piotr Białowolski.

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

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

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Białowolski, P., Węziak-Białowolska, D. & VanderWeele, T.J. The impact of savings and credit on health and health behaviours: an outcome-wide longitudinal approach. Int J Public Health 64, 573–584 (2019).

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