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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Northwestern: Long-Term Income Volatility Linked to Cardiovascular Disease

Long-term income volatility increases risk for cardiovascular events and overall mortality, according to a study published in Circulation.

These findings suggest that individuals experiencing income volatility should be a high priority group for cardiovascular screenings and interventions, said Dr. Kiarri Kershaw, associate professor of preventive medicine in the division of epidemiology and a co-author of the study.

Income volatility in the United States has reached its highest levels since 1980, according to other research cited in the current study. However, many investigations measuring income’s impact on health reference income from a single moment in time, so the impact of long-term volatility is relatively unknown.

The current study, part of the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study, examined cardiovascular and overall health outcomes associated with income volatility, as defined by percentage changes in income over the course of fifteen years.

The study population included nearly 4,000 adults between ages 25 and 40, whose income and cardiovascular health outcomes were tracked at five separate clinic visits between 1990 and 2015. Even after controlling for behavioral and demographic risk factors, the study found higher overall income volatility or drops in income were associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and overall mortality.

In contrast, income that did not significantly change or only increased during the study period was not associated with increased risk.

Dr. Kershaw is also a member of the Institute for Public Health and Medicine at Northwestern.

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