Financial strain and the health of Black, White, and Hispanic older adults: Lingering effects of the Great Recession?

Lindsay Rinaldo Wilkinson, Purdue University


The Great Recession that began in late 2007 and ended in mid-2009 has influenced the financial well-being of older adults, but has it had discernible effects on health? Prior research has repeatedly shown the deleterious effects of financial strain on mental and physical health and mortality; however, less is known about how this relationship functions during a historical fluctuation in the economy. Guided by cumulative inequality theory, the objective of this dissertation is to examine pre-recession and post-recession financial strain and health and investigate whether financial strain (1) increased for older adults following the Great Recession, and (2) if so, the impact of the recession on health. Drawing on the Health and Retirement Study, this research uses data collected on 5,205 older adults in 2006 and 2010 to examine change in financial strain and three domains of health: mental health, somatic well-being, and sleep disturbances. This dissertation is divided into three main articles, with each article focused on a separate health domain. Findings from this research indicate that while older adults were more likely to experience decreases in financial strain following the Great Recession, both initial financial strain and change in financial strain between 2006 and 2010 explained change in anxiety and depressive symptoms, psychotropic drug use, acute physical symptoms, and sleep disturbances over roughly the same span of time.




Ferraro, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Aging|Public policy|Ethnic studies

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