Study shows high inflation causes stress, health inequalities


A York University-led study found that high inflation rates are leading to more stress among certain sociodemographic groups and exacerbating inequalities in health across the United States.

The study, “Assessment of sociodemographics and inflation-related stress in the US,” was published in the American Medical Association’s open access journal JAMA Network Open.

Cary Wu, professor of sociology at York University
Cary Wu

Led by Assistant Professor Cary Wu of the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, the study illustrates how high inflation has become a significant source of stress according to the study by analyzing data from the 369,328 respondents who took part in a U.S. study called the Household Pulse Survey. Among participants, 93 per cent reported an increase in prices for goods and services in their area; 47 per cent of them said the rise in prices was very stressful, 28 per cent felt moderately stressed, while 19 per cent reported feeling a little stress.

Inflation stress, however, affects various segments of the population differently. “Inflation does not affect everyone equally and can have a greater impact on people depending on their gender, race, age, marital status, education and income,” says Wu.

Analyzing the demographics of the respondents, the study found inflation is a significant source of stress for women, much more so than men, as well as those who are socioeconomically more vulnerable. Black and Hispanic people reported higher inflation stress than white people, while Asians reported lower inflation stress.

Education and income also play a role with higher levels of both being associated with lower inflation stress. Some 66 per cent of those who reported less than $25,000 in household income felt stressed, while only 17 per cent of those with a household income more than $200,000 reported feeling stress about high inflation.

After adjusting socio-economic status, the difference in stress disappeared between Blacks and whites, but Asians showed slightly higher inflation stress.

Previously married individuals who are now widowed, divorced or separated had higher levels of inflation stress than married couples. It was also found to be higher for middle-aged groups compared to those older or younger.

The demographic breakdown of respondents was 62 per cent white, 11 per cent Black, five per cent Asian and 17 per cent were Hispanic, while 51 per cent were women and 31 per cent had post-secondary education.

Although this study looked at the effects of high inflation in the U.S., research by Wu on Canadians has found similar patterns, making its impact – and the need to address the health challenges of high inflation – an important concern. “There is a need for more research and better policies to help protect against the health disparities caused by high-inflation stress that affects certain segments of the population more than others,” says Wu.

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