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Losing your nest egg can be fatal, say scientists

A study has linked sudden financial loss with a higher risk of death in the next 20 years.

Sudden loss of a financial “nest egg” in middle age can shorten your life, research suggests.

Study participants who lost at least three quarters of their total wealth over a two-year period increased their chances of dying in the next 20 years by 50%.

US scientists looked at the impact of unexpected financial loss on a population of 8,714 adults aged 51 to 61 whose progress was followed between 1994 and 2014.

Lead author Dr Lindsay Pool, from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said: “We found losing your life savings has a profound effect on a person’s long-term health.

“It’s a very pervasive issue. It wasn’t just a few individuals but more than 25% of Americans had a wealth shock over the 20 years of the study.”

The study, published in the Journal Of The American Medical Association, also examined a group of low-income men and women of similar age with no accumulated wealth. Compared with people who had savings, their increased risk of dying over 20 years was 67%.

“The most surprising finding was that having wealth and losing it is almost as bad for your life expectancy as never having wealth,” said Dr Pool.

The likely cause of the link between wealth loss and earlier death may be two-fold, she added. A financial crash may both trigger mental health problems and cause people to miss out on unaffordable medical treatment.

Cost of health care is less likely to be an issue in the UK, which has the NHS.

Dr Pool’s team now plans a more detailed investigation into the mechanisms that lead to higher mortality after a big financial loss.

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