A new analysis has found a strong correlation between a person’s credit score and his or her cardiovascular health, according to the findings published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
This doesn’t mean that poor financial management hurts your health, said postdoctoral researcher Salomon Israel, Ph.D., of Duke University. Instead, it’s that the sort of personal attributes that can lead to a poor credit score can also lead to poor health.
Specifically, self-control, planning ahead, and perseverance appear to be attributes that predict both better financial status and better health.
For the study, researchers monitored the physical and mental health of more than 1,000 New Zealanders from birth to age 38.
“What it comes down to is that people who don’t take care of their money don’t take care of their health,” said study leader Terrie Moffitt, Ph.D., who is the Nannerl O. Keohane university professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke.
In fact, the researchers found that about 20 percent of the relationship between credit scores and heart health was accounted for by the attitudes, behaviors, and competencies displayed by the participants when they were younger than age 10.
“We’re showing that these things take root early in life,” Israel said.
The Duke researchers used a standard measure called the Framingham cardiovascular risk score. This helped estimate the “heart age” of their participants, based on blood pressure, cholesterol levels, blood sugar, and smoking habits.
At age 38, the participants’ Framingham “heart ages” ranged from 22 to 85 years; participants with higher credit scores had younger “heart ages.”
“The thing that’s so compelling about credit scores is that they’re both predictive and retrospective,” said co-author Avshalom Caspi, Ph.D., the Edward M. Arnett professor of psychology and neuroscience, psychiatry & behavioral sciences at Duke. “They offer a window on the future, but also a window on the past.”
“In recent years, credit scores have been used for pre-employment screening and many other functions beyond their original intent,” Israel said. It seems to be a measure of a person’s reliability and steadfastness, and in turn how healthy they may be.
“Our findings suggest that life insurance companies that acquire an applicant’s credit score are also indirectly acquiring information about that applicant’s educational attainment, intelligence, and personality, right back to childhood,” the authors wrote.
The link might work the other way as well. In less developed countries where credit scores aren’t available, a Harvard team has been experimenting with a 40-minute personality quiz to judge a candidates’ credit-worthiness for microloans.
Source: Duke University