Educating low-income single mothers about consumer finances led to lower stress and healthier lifestyle choices, a new study shows.
Researchers from Creighton University tracked health metrics such as blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, perceived quality of life, hopefulness and lifestyle behaviors among women aged 19 to 55 who completed the academic institution's Financial Success Program , which provides personal finance training.
Financial Success Program participants decreased tobacco use and experienced a significant reduction in stress related to financial concerns compared to women who didn't take part in the program. Women who underwent the training were less likely to avoid seeking medical treatment due to cost, the study also determined.
The program includes lessons on how to track personal finances, build credit and accumulate savings. The university provided access to financial coaches and a money-management platform, and offered child care and meals to facilitate attendance to the program's nine in-person sessions.
The researchers are now looking to assess the broader implications of their findings, said Nicole White, principal investigator and associate professor of pharmacy at Creighton University.
"Our end goal is really to change the long-term health trajectory of people that face financial instability," White said. "We are really hoping that by having the financial education and decreasing financial stress over the long term, we're going to see less heart attacks and strokes and less complications from diabetes."
Creighton University has partnered with the Diabetes Care Foundation and CyncHealth, a Nebraska-based health information exchange, to track study participants over the next 20 years to determine if the short-term benefits translate into a lower likelihood they develop chronic conditions. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation provided funding for research into links between financial literacy and health.
The researchers hope to persuade payers it's in their interest to support financial education, said Julie Kalkowski, founder and executive director of the Financial Hope Collaborative.
"If we can show that this delays the onset of chronic diseases, then that's a very effective healthcare intervention that should be reimbursed for by insurance companies, Medicaid and Medicare," Kalkowski said. "If you keep people healthier, you dramatically reduce healthcare costs."