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Student Loans Might Be Driving You Crazy According to Science

You are not a loan.

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In a study literally entitled “Sick of our loans,” researchers looked into the link between mountains of student loan debt and the psychological health of young American adults. They found that relentless, lifelong pursuit for an impossibly high sum of money like the monster from It Follows tends to harm people’s mental states. Who would’ve thought?

The researchers used a standard Mental Health Inventory questionnaire to assess the mental states of 4,643 adults who were born between 1980 and 1984. Even factoring in current occupation, household income, and level of education achieved, they found that the single defining factor in college graduates’ mental health was the size of their student loan debt. Bigger debt corresponded with worse mental states across the board. With tuition prices only going up and those early ’80s kids having long graduated by now, the mental health impact is likely getting worse.

For those of you lucky enough not to know, there is literally no recourse for people who can’t pay their student loans. No filing for bankruptcy. Nothing. For federal loans, there are programs to negotiate lower payments based on income or hardship, but people who need private loans to fully cover the cost of college aren’t so lucky.

If you can’t pay, the collection agencies will ruin your credit for an incredibly long time, and you will still owe them the same pile of money plus whatever interest and fees they tack on. Basically, you’ll wind up paying it for the rest of your life just to get them to leave you alone with no hope of ever actually paying it off, which is what the collectors want. That’s how they make money.

It’s a disturbingly predatory system that pretends to be based on the absurd assumption that students would be rushing to file bankruptcy to get rid of their debt right after graduation, and it’s affecting the mental health of any young adult with college loan debt.

The study also found that wealth after graduation had little impact on what student loans did to people’s minds. If two people had the same amount of load debt, it was likely to place them under just as much mental strain no matter if one of them was having an easier time making payments, financially speaking.

The data did reveal, however, that those from lower income backgrounds tended to deal with the crushing debt better mentally, which could be because the education improved their lives so significantly or because they were already used to stressful financial situations. Either way, it’s clear that college can do great things for a person, but it’d be great to live in a world where no one is actually unraveling like they’re being chased by a horror movie monster.

(via Live Science, image via Simon Cunningham)

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