Journal of Family and Economic Issues

, Volume 40, Issue 1, pp 22–35 | Cite as

American Young Adults’ Debt and Psychological Distress

  • Qun ZhangEmail author
  • Hyungsoo Kim
Original Paper


This study explored the impact of student loan and credit card debt on young people’s psychological distress. Targeting American young adults ages 18–28, we examined the impacts of student loan and credit card debt on psychological distress and estimated their relative magnitude using five biannual waves from the Transition into Adulthood Study. Fixed-effects models investigated whether changes in debts led to changes in psychological distress. Increases of $1000 in student loan and credit card debt resulted in 6% and 4% higher odds of distress, respectively. Comparison showed credit card debt inflicted twice as much stress. Implications on young adults’ debt reduction and distress alleviation are addressed.


Student loans Credit card debt Psychological distress American young adults 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

Qun Zhang and Hyungsoo Kim declare no conflict of financial or non-financial interests, directly or indirectly.

Ethical Approval

This study does not contain any studies with human participants performed by either of the authors.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Family SciencesUniversity of KentuckyLexingtonUSA

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