Changing America

Americans with higher financial literacy are healthier: research

Credit cards
Credit cards as seen Thursday, July 1, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. Record low-interest mortgages are long gone. Credit card rates will likely rise. You’ll pay more for an auto loan. The unusually large three-quarter point hike, Wednesday, June 15, 2022 in the Fed’s benchmark short-term rate is going to have a lot of impacts on Americans’ finances. The hope is that by making borrowing more expensive, the Fed will succeed in cooling demand for homes, cars and other goods and services and slow inflation. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File) AP/John Raoux

Story at a glance


  • A number of Black Americans made history in 2022 by breaking through glass ceilings.

  • Ketanji Brown Jackson became the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court, while Hakeem Jeffries is the first Black person to lead House Democrats. 

  • Brittney Griner made history of a different sort as her imprisonment in Russia awakened a political movement.

Americans who have improved financial literacy and financial access are healthier overall, according to new research.

A study published this month in the Journal of Family and Economic Issues found a positive and consistent association between financial capability and health, such as a person’s physical and mental health.

The study found the association between financial capability and health was independent of other factors, including race/ethnicity, gender, income, education and employment.

The study treads new ground because previous research has focused on the association between financial capability and health based on individual knowledge and behavior, the authors noted.

“Improving people’s financial capability is actionable, practical, and modifiable in ways that may reduce poverty and inequality in society,” they added, underscoring the significance of the study.

Financial capability was defined in the study as the combination of financial literacy, such as the knowledge and skills needed to improve financial resources, and financial access, or ownership of financial products such as a checking account or credit card.

The new research comes as income inequality has soared in the past 40 years in the U.S. and is considered a driving factor in political polarization and domestic strife.

Millions of Americans across the country also struggle with a mental illness, which has been rising among adolescents and younger adults.

Researchers in the new study called for more and enhanced policies and programs that target people’s ability to improve financial literacy and financial access.

“The current COVID-19 pandemic presents a timely opportunity for meaningful action by social work and public health professionals to advocate for continued and increased structural level interventions targeting financial capability to reverse inequality,” they wrote.

In the study, authors compiled data from three nationwide surveys conducted in 2012 and 2016.

Those surveys included questions about the economy and questions on economic and emotional health for the respondents.