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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

South Carolina: Study Finds that Fathers Who Take Out More College Loans for their Kids Report Poorer Mental Health

Research led by health promotion, education, and behavior associate professor Dr. Katrina Walsemann at the University of South Carolina, Arnold School of Public Health and published in the Journals of Gerontology has found that fathers with greater amounts of child-related educational debt report more depressive symptoms and worse mental health than fathers with lower amounts of this type of debt. There was no association among mothers who assume the similar amounts of debt.

“More parents are borrowing to help their children pay for college, and these loans may be a source of financial stress and worry, which could influence parents’ mental health,” says Dr. Walsemann, who has previously studied which groups of parents are likely to take on education debt (and how much of it) in addition to other studies examining the health outcomes (e.g., mental, sleep) among students who take on college debt themselves. “Our research focuses on parents’ mental health during mid-life since this is a key period in the life course for acquiring child-related educational debt, which has important implications for retirement and wellbeing during older adulthood.”

Over the past 50 years, higher education costs in the United States have increased by more than 250 percent, adjusting for inflation. Combined with stagnating family wages and reductions in federally-sponsored financial aid for college, these economic trends have resulted in more than $1.6 trillion in educational debt among Americans.

Programs such as the Parent PLUS loans program (i.e., unsubsidized Direct PLUS loans made by the federal government to parents to pay for their children’s undergraduate education) have doubled in participation since the early 2000s.

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