Landfall After the Perfect Storm: Cohort Differences in the Relationship Between Debt and Risk of Heart Attack

A Correction to this article was published on 10 December 2020

This article has been updated

Abstract

Analyses of the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) between 1992 and 2014 compare the relationship between different levels and forms of debt and heart attack risk trajectories across four cohorts. Although all cohorts experienced growing household debt, including the increase of both secured and unsecured debt, they nevertheless encountered different economic opportunity structures and crises at sensitive times in their life courses, with implications for heart attack risk trajectories. Results from frailty hazards models reveal that unsecured debt is associated with increased risk of heart attack across all cohorts. Higher levels of housing debt, however, predict higher rates of heart attack among only the earlier cohorts. Heart attack risk trajectories for Baby Boomers with high levels of housing debt are lower than those of same-aged peers with no housing debt. Thus, the relationship between debt and heart attack varies by level and form of debt across cohorts but distinguishes Baby Boomer cohorts based on their diverse exposures to volatile housing market conditions over the sensitive household formation period of the life course.

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Data Availability

All data sets used are publicly available from the Health and Retirement Study at the University of Michigan.

Change history

  • 10 December 2020

    The original version of the article was updated. Figure 2 was replaced with the correct version as below

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Acknowledgments

This work was supported by NIA/NIH Grant P30-AG034424 to the Duke Center for Population Health and Aging and by the Duke University Trinity College of Arts & Sciences. We thank Scott M. Lynch for feedback on statistical modeling and Bryce Bartlett for early assistance with graphics.

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Angela M. O’Rand contributed to the study concept and design. Data preparation and analyses were performed by Jenifer Hamil-Luker with feedback from O’Rand. The first draft of the manuscript was drafted jointly by Angela M. O’Rand and Jenifer Hamll-Luker. Both authors edited subsequent versions and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Angela M. O’Rand.

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The original version of the article was updated. Figure 2 was replaced with the correct version.

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O’Rand, A.M., Hamil-Luker, J. Landfall After the Perfect Storm: Cohort Differences in the Relationship Between Debt and Risk of Heart Attack. Demography 57, 2199–2220 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13524-020-00930-3

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Keywords

  • Cohort
  • Debt
  • Heart attack
  • Inequality
  • Frailty hazards