Poll: Many Seniors Took 'Great Recession' In Stride

Staten Island commercial bank says survey uncovers surprise among older adults


STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. – The Great Recession, which spanned 2006 – 2010 put a dent in many pocketbooks, but a sociologist found that the subjective sense of strain wasn't uniformly felt.

Victory State Bank, Staten Island's only community-based business bank, finds the study somewhat surprising, as did the researcher.

The new study by Baylor University, reported during the summer, found that more than 40 percent of older adults – ages 51 to 96 – sensed a decrease in “financial strain.”

Its focus was on 5,205 respondents from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) to examine the effect of financial strain on the mental health and use of mood-altering drugs by the group studied.

HRS, sponsored by the National Institute on Aging, is the largest ongoing national study of adults age 51 and older.


Only a quarter of respondents indicated an increase in financial strain between 2006 and 2010, while about one-third said their strain remained the same, said Lindsay R. Wilkinson, Ph.D., an assistant professor of sociology in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences.


“It’s difficult to determine precisely why so many adults would experience less financial strain in 2010, but one possible explanation may be the perceptual nature of these evaluations,” Wilkinson said.


“Perhaps knowing that others were struggling reduced the stress felt by individuals.”

Previous research has shown that economic stress typically decreases as one gets older, with the over-65 crowd benefiting from home ownership, medical insurance and Social Security, the Baylor report noted.

Wilkinson also discovered, however, that both initial financial strain and increasing strain over the period of the recession exacted a toll on mental health.

For instance, increasing financial strain was associated with worsening anxiety and depressive symptoms and increased the likelihood of using drugs such as antidepressants.

The study differs from many others on the Great Recession because “financial strain” is a subjective measure based on self-reporting rather than on economic indicators.


To measure financial strain, the study examined whether respondents had difficulty making monthly payments and whether and to what degree they were satisfied with their present financial situation.


“Difficulty in making payments may appear more objective than satisfaction, but it’s still a person’s perception of his or her financial situation,” Wilkinson said.


“Two people might have the same amount left over every month, but one might say, ‘Oh, my goodness, that’s not enough,’ while the other might say, ‘Well, I paid my bills.’ Subjective measures matter, because it’s your reality — and that has an effect on health.”

A 2011 survey by the American Association of Retired Persons indicated that “the Great Recession drove millions of older Americans to deplete savings accounts, put off medical or dental treatment and reduce their retirement expectations.”

Wilkinson tested the theory that financial strain would have a negative effect on mental health by using three measures — whether and to what degree respondents felt anxiety, whether and to what degree they were depressed and whether they used anti-depressants, tranquilizers or medicine for nerves.

Those who were employed were more likely to have increased financial strain, most likely due to worries about high unemployment and job security.

Also more likely to report an increase in financial strain were younger respondents, black and Hispanic individuals and those who gave themselves low health ratings.

As might be expected, individuals who were better educated and with greater household wealth were less likely to report increased financial strain.


About Victory State Bank

VSB Bancorp, Inc. (OTCQB: VSBN) is the one-bank holding company for Victory State Bank. As Staten Island, N.Y.’s only community-based commercial bank, Victory State Bank operates five full-service locations on the Island: The main office in the community of Great Kills, and branches in the communities of West Brighton, St. George, Dongan Hills and Rosebank. For additional information, Victory State Bank may be reached at 718-979-1100 or visited online at www.VictoryStateBank.com.

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