Abstract: Trends in Financial Hardship Among Older Adults in the U.S. from 2006-2016 (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

Trends in Financial Hardship Among Older Adults in the U.S. from 2006-2016

Friday, January 17, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 8, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Gillian Marshall, PhD, MSW, Assistant Professor, University of Washington, Tacoma, WA
William Gallo, PhD, MPH, Researcher, Vital Statistics
Eva Kahana, PhD, Professor, Case Western Reserve University
Background and Purpose: Financial hardship among older individuals is a stressor that has been linked to physical and mental health. Little is known, however, about whether patterns of financial hardship produce variable health responses. The purpose of this study was to isolate longitudinal patterns of financial hardship as a step toward correlating it with a number of health outcomes.
Methods: This descriptive longitudinal investigation analyzed data from 13,995 participants of the US Health and Retirement Study. Data from the self-assessed questionnaire (SAQ), administered every 4 years, were analyzed with descriptive techniques. Two SAQ groups (2006, 2010, 2014; 2008, 2012, 2016) each contributed 3 records for analysis. Four, investigator-constructed binary variables were analyzed: food insecurity, reduced medication due to cost, had difficulty paying bills; experienced ongoing financial strain.
Results: Outcome prevalence over the 3 waves of observation was remarkably consistent. Among participants with positive prevalence of a financial hardship variable at one or more waves, the majority experienced hardship at one wave only; a negligible proportion reported hardship at all 3 waves. One-wave prevalence was highest at the baseline wave and declined across time. Two-wave prevalence exhibited the following pattern, from highest to lowest: wave 1 and wave 2, wave 2 and wave 3, wave 1 and wave 3.
Conclusions and Implications: Simple prevalence estimates of financial hardship obscure redistribution of individuals whose financial resources vary with time. Studies should thus analyze participants who report financial hardship at a minimum of one time point. Consistent intertemporal patterns across four distinct measures suggest a global effect of economic circumstances that reflect the economic state of the US economy.