Fluctuating income may up heart disease risk

Researchers also focused on people who had lost 25% or more of their income from the last assessment and found that both volatility and reductions in income were associated with greater risk of heart events like heart attacks, strokes and heart failure, as well as early death.

The researchers said that their findings underline the urgency of addressing the public health threat posed by fluctuating income particularly in the United States, where income volatility has been on the rise and has reached record level since 1980.

Tali Elfassy, from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in Florida, and colleagues surveyed the participants for their income at the beginning of the study, and four more times after that.

And that means people who have experienced major income fluctuations may need to be part of high-priority screening groups for cardiovascular disease and premature mortality. "So nearly 50 percent of the study population had changes in income, increases and decreases, across the study period".

The study was not able to determine the cause of the association between income volatility and health because it was observational and not created to prove cause and effect.

Fluctuations in income impact a person's ability to cover regular expenses, pay down debt or save for the future. Stressful events can contribute to obesity, which is a risk factor for heart disease, as well as high blood pressure. Having a lower socioeconomic status has also been connected to poorer heart health, since people with low or unstable incomes tend to smoke more, get less regular exercise and see their doctors less frequently, all of which can add to the risk of heart problems. Arnett said. "I think it's a multitude of reasons that could be contributing to this finding".

The study suggested bouts of poverty when young people should be earning more affects heart health more than previously thought and they should be screened to spot the first sign of poor health.

Money issues are a common source of anxiety - and they can have negative effects on heart health for both young people and for those who are older, researchers have found. "For this study, we were interested in changes in income over time and how that is associated with disease and mortality".

It is following 3,937 people living in Birmingham, Alabama; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Chicago, Illinois; and Oakland, California.

So the study analysed data from the ongoing Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study which began in 1990.

Changes in income were recorded in five assessments from 1990 to 2005.

"Individuals with higher income volatility were more likely to be women, black, have lower income in general, and less likely to be married", Elfassy said. "They also had less years of education than those who did not have income fluctuation".

Arnett said that it's hard to remain heart-healthy when you're facing the stress of a job loss or pay cut.

Elfassy said a number of criteria likely factor into the association.