Inflation-related stress in certain sociodemographic groups exacerbates health inequalities in the U.S.

High inflation rates are stressing certain sociodemographic groups more than others, exacerbating inequalities in health in the United States, found a new study led by a York University researcher.

Stress is known to have detrimental effects on health and high inflation has become a significant source of stress. Of the 93 per cent of respondents who reported an increase in prices for goods and services in their area, 47 per cent of them said the rise in prices was very stressful, 28 per cent felt moderately stressed, while 19 per cent reported feeling a little stress. Less than six per cent said increased prices were not stressful to them.

Inflation stress, however, affects various segments of the population differently.

Inflation does not affect everyone equally and can have a greater impact on people depending on their gender, race, age, marital status, education and income."

Cary Wu, Lead Author, Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies, Assistant Professor, York University

Although the study looked at the effects of high inflation in the U.S., research on Canadians by Wu has found similar patterns.

To measure high inflation stress, the researchers analyzed data from the U.S. Household Pulse Survey. Of the 369,328 respondents, 62 per cent were white, 11 per cent were Black, five per cent were Asian and 17 per cent were Hispanic, while 51 per cent were women and 31 per cent had post-secondary education.

The study found inflation is a significant source of stress for women, much more so than men, as well as those who are socioeconomically more vulnerable. Black and Hispanic people reporter higher inflation stress than white people, while Asians reporter lower inflation stress.

Education and income also play a role with higher levels of both being associated with lower inflation stress. Some 66 per cent of those who reported less than $25,000 in household income felt stressed, while only 17 per cent of those with a household income more than $200,000 reported feeling stress about high inflation.

After adjusting socioeconomic status, the difference in stress disappeared between Blacks and whites, but Asians showed slightly higher inflation stress.

Previously married individuals who are now widowed, divorced or separated had higher levels of inflation stress than married couples. It was also found to be higher for middle-aged groups compared to those older and younger.

"There is a need for more research and better policies to help protect against the health disparities caused by high inflation stress that affects certain segments of the population more than others," says Wu.

Source:
Journal reference:

Wu, C., et al. (2023) Assessment of Sociodemographics and Inflation-Related Stress in the US. JAMA Network Open. doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.13431.

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