Student loan debt hurts half of Americans’ mental health

A new survey by online education platform ELVTR found that 54% of respondents say their mental health issues are directly linked to high student debt, CNBC reported.

At 56%, anxiety was found to be the top mental health issue caused by student loan debt. During this time, about 20% endured sleepless nights and panic attacks and 32% suffered from depression.

“It’s not just America’s pockets that are hurting,” wrote the poll, which surveyed 2,000 American participants. “With many people facing financial hardship like never before, the pressure of student loan repayments is also impacting the nation’s mental well-being.”

According to the Education Data Initiative, the average student attending a public university in the United States currently borrows about $33,000 to earn a bachelor’s degree.

“With the pandemic that has left 10 million Americans out of work and the cost of food, gas and rent skyrocketing, hard workers are being forced to cut essential expenses. For 44 million graduates, five-figure student loan debt compounds financial strain,” the survey writes.

“Only one in five Americans are lucky to have been unaffected by the financial climate, with the vast majority putting a significant life event on hold to track student loan repayments. A third have delayed founding a family, more than half put aside savings or travel plans, and more than 60% put a major purchase on hold,” he continued.

Of even greater concern is the expectation that university tuition will likely continue to rise.

“With the cost of higher education rising faster than inflation, the situation is only getting worse,” Roman Peskin, founder and CEO of ELVTR, told CNBC.

There is, however, considerable help from the Biden administration, which last month announced a sweeping plan to cancel student loans. Those with federal student loans who earn less than $125,000 a year, or couples earning less than $250,000, are eligible for a rebate of up to $10,000. But if a borrower received a Pell Grant to attend college, they could potentially get up to $20,000 in relief.

Borrowers should be able to apply for forgiveness from next month, and around eight million people could have their loans automatically wiped out because the Department for Education already has their income data. The Biden administration is expected to launch an app portal that will allow other borrowers to provide their income information.

According to a White House press release, “more than 40 million borrowers are expected to qualify for its student debt relief plan, and nearly 20 million borrowers could see the full amount of their remaining balance refunded”.

“Nearly 90% of relief dollars will go to those earning less than $75,000 a year – and no relief will go to an individual or household in the top 5% of incomes in the United States,” he continued.

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington State-based finance and technology editor who has held positions at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow him or contact him on LinkedIn.

Image: Reuters

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