The relationship between housing cost burden and health status of older adults in the United States
Green-Pimentel, Leslie Ellen
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Prior empirical research has demonstrated that a relationship exists between health and wealth as well as health and financial strain, but the direction of the relationship remains in question. Very little research has been conducted that specifically examines the relationship between mortgage debt and health. The number of adults entering retirement with mortgage debt is increasing and the levels of mortgage debt they are carrying is also increasing. This study used two waves (2004 and 2006) of the Health and Retirement Study to examine the dual relationship between housing cost burden and self-reported health status of mortgagees age 65 and older. Two-stage probit least squares regression was used to examine this relationship. Model One examined the relationship between the level of housing cost burden and the probability of reporting being in good health. Model Two examined the relationship between being in good health and the level of housing cost burden. The results indicated that level of housing cost burden in 2006 was not statistically significantly associated with the probability of reporting good health in 2006. However, level of education, assets, and whether or not the respondent participated in regular physical activity in 2004 were significant to the probability of reporting being in good health in 2006. The results also indicated that being in good health in 2006 was not statistically significantly associated with the level of housing cost burden in 2006. However, race/ethnicity, marital status, employment status, and health insurance coverage in 2004 were significant predictors of level of housing cost burden in 2006. The Life Cycle Income Hypothesis was used in variable selection, hypotheses formation, and in drawing conclusions to the results. In short, the Life Cycle Income Hypothesis suggests individuals utilize their total available resources in older age in order to maintain constant consumption. However, utilizing home equity, which typically requires repayment, may in reality go against the Life Cycle Income Hypotheses as individuals are assumed to have timed final payments of loans with the decision to exit the labor force. This research is timely in as much as the population of adults age 65 and older is increasing in the United States and in light of the evidence that levels of mortgage debt held among people in this age group are also increasing.