People have been railing against student loans for a while now, but a new study gives you another reason to complain: Loans, it suggests, can also hurt students' mental health. The study looked at survey responses from nearly 5,000 Americans born between 1980 and 1984, and found that the higher a person's student loans were, the worse off his or her mental health was. Researchers measured psychological health via the oft-used Mental Health Inventory questionnaire, LiveScience reports. They found problems with both "occupational trajectories" (think: a decision to stray from what you actually want to do with your life) and "health inequities" (including increased depression and stress) related to debt, CBS Atlanta notes. And in coming to their conclusions, researchers controlled for other differences between respondents, such as their income and occupation.
That means student debt had an impact on mental health even if the person went on to make a lot of money in his or her future career. That's possibly because "you cannot defer them, they follow you for the rest of your life until you pay them off," the lead researcher says in a press release. This, of course, is bad news considering researchers also found that the average amount of student loan debt has gone up recently. The only exception: Students from low-income families saw their mental health improve with higher student loan amounts, perhaps because, researchers theorize, those loans helped boost the person's social standing and thus happiness. "We speculate that the American middle class is suffering the most from post-graduation debt, since they do not qualify for governmental assistance, nor is their family able to take on the bulk of the costs associated with college," the lead author says, according to Business Insider.