SAN FRANCISCO The "Great Recession" may have put a dent in many older adults' pocketbooks, but a new study, which will be presented at the 109th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association, finds that more than 40 percent reported a decrease in "financial strain" between 2006 and 2010.
Researcher Lindsay R. Wilkinson, an assistant professor of sociology in Baylor University's College of Arts & Sciences, drew on 5,205 respondents from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) to examine the effect of financial strain on the mental health and use of mood-altering drugs by older adults. HRS, sponsored by the National Institute on Aging, is the largest ongoing national study of adults age 51 and older.
Wilkinson found that only one-quarter of respondents indicated an increase in financial strain between 2006 and 2010, while about one-third said their strain remained the same.
"It's difficult to determine precisely why so many adults would experience less financial strain in 2010, but one possible explanation may be the perceptual nature of these evaluations," she said. "The Recession represents a historical time that affected a great number of people. Perhaps knowing that others were struggling reduced the stress felt by individuals."
Previous research has shown that economic stress typically decreases as one gets older, with the over-65 crowd benefitting from home ownership, medical insurance, and Social Security.
Wilkinson also discovered, however, that both initial financial strain and increasing strain over the period of the Recession exacted a toll on mental health. For instance, increasing financial strain was associated with worsening anxiety and depressive symptoms and increased the likelihood of using drugs such as antidepressants.
Wilkinson noted that her study which included individuals from ages 51 to 96 differs from many others on the Great Recession because "financial strai
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American Sociological Association