According to a new study, college loan debt and credit card debt can actually increase a person’s self-esteem and sense of mastery. Researchers looked at young adults and found that those between the ages of 18-27 felt more empowered by carrying debt. “Debt can be a good thing for young people – it can help them achieve goals that they couldn’t otherwise, like a college education,” said sociologist Dr. Rachel Dwyer of Ohio State University. “Debt can be a positive resource for young adults, but it comes with some significant dangers,” Dwyer said. “Young people seem to view debt mostly in just positive terms rather than as a potential burden.”
Researchers looked at over 3,000 young adults all carrying both student loans and credit card debt. Experts view debt both positively and negatively. “We thought educational debt might be seen as a positive because it is an investment in their future, while credit card debt could be viewed more negatively,” Dwyer said. “Surprisingly, though, we found that both kinds of debt had positive effects for young people. It didn’t matter the type of debt, it increased their self-esteem and sense of mastery.”
The researchers also discovered those in the lowest income bracket actually received the largest benefits from their debt. Young adults in the middle class sector saw little or no change on their sense of mastery and self-esteem due to the fact that most young adults in this income bracket carry similar debt. And students in the highest income brackets saw no increase in self-esteem from carrying the debt. “The wealthiest young people have the most resources and options available to them, so debt is not an issue for them,” Dwyer said. “The groups that most need the debt – the middle and lower classes – get the most benefits to their self-concept, but may also face the greatest difficulties in paying off what they owe.”
© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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