Money might not be able to buy happiness, but high levels of student debt come at its expense, according to a study from Gallup and Purdue University.
The study of 30,000 graduates showed that those without any student debt were three times more likely to report they were thriving in their well-being than those with between $20,000 and $40,000 in student debt, and seven times more likely compared to those with more than $40,000 in debt.
The study defined well-being as a multi-pronged form of happiness, gauging how respondents feel about the purpose of their work, their financial health, their social lives, their sense of community, and their physical health. The lower the graduate’s debt, the more likely they were to be thriving in all five areas.
Nationwide, student debt currently tops credit card debt and has gained prominence as a rising economic concern.
The Gallup-Purdue study also found that 16 percent of grads with more than $40,000 in debt started new businesses, compared to 26 percent of those with no debt. Purdue president Mitch Daniels says that means that high levels of debt are having a broad economic impact beyond borrowers’ personal well-being.