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Chronic Financial Stress and its Impact on Biological Health: Study by UCL Researchers

Impact of Financial stress

A new study conducted by researchers at University College London (UCL) reveals a significant link between stressful life events and adverse effects on biological health, as evidenced by biomarkers associated with the intricate interplay between the immune, nervous, and endocrine systems. Published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity, the research underscores that both major stressors, such as bereavement, and persistent challenges like financial strain contribute to disruptions in the vital communication among these systems.

Maintaining the harmony between the immune, nervous, and endocrine systems is crucial for overall health, and any disturbance in this equilibrium is associated with a range of mental and physical illnesses, from cardiovascular diseases to depression and schizophrenia. The study involved analyzing blood concentrations of four biomarkers in 4,934 participants aged 50 and over from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing.

Method of research

The researchers employed latent profile analysis to identify three groups based on biomarker activity: low risk, moderate risk, and high risk to health. The study revealed that exposure to various stressful circumstances led to a 61% increase in the likelihood of belonging to the high-risk group four years later. Moreover, the cumulative effect of stressors was evident, with a 19% increased likelihood for each additional stress-inducing circumstance.


Financial strain emerged as a particularly detrimental stressor, with individuals reporting financial stress being 59% more likely to belong to the high-risk group four years later. The lead author, Odessa S. Hamilton, emphasized the pervasive impact of financial stress, attributing it to potential consequences such as family conflict, social exclusion, hunger, or homelessness.

The study also considered genetic factors influencing the immune-neuroendocrine response and found that the association between stressful life circumstances and a high-risk biomarker profile persisted irrespective of genetic predisposition. The findings highlight the insidious nature of chronic stress, disrupting the communication between immune and neuroendocrine systems and potentially leading to various health issues. Supported by multiple research institutions, the study underscores the need for further research to deepen our understanding of the complex relationship between stress and biological health.

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