One difference is that the non-poor have the financial resources to manage their debts conveniently and at low cost.
We think nothing of consolidating our bills on a credit card and paying it automatically. We know that we have enough savings to be able to afford an unexpected expense or occasional splurge. So we have a lot of resilience to life's ups and downs that the poor simply do not. Hence, we should not assume that just because we find it easy to manage debt, we could do the same if we were poor. Our debt mental accounting costs are simply lower than the poor.
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Assoc Prof Ng concluded, "The findings in this study opens a pragmatic case for designing good debt relief programmes for low-income households. Firstly, they help. In fact, not helping low-income households with debt is counter-productive because not doing so leaves them in suboptimal functioning and high anxiety.
Secondly, the design of the intervention is key. As it is the pile up of debt accounts more than the amount of debt that affects functioning, interventions should focus on decreasing the mental load on low-income households, whose minds are already highly stressed. The researchers suggest that policy interventions that streamline debts would significantly improve cognitive and psychological functioning, and reduce counterproductive behaviour.
For instance, restructuring or consolidating debt could be a more sustainable policy as it is less costly and more effective than simply clearing debt.
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More generally, poverty alleviation interventions should target and reduce the factors that contribute to the mental burdens of the poor. The researchers are now examining the longer term effects of debt relief and are applying the insights from the study to find innovative solutions that may help the poor. This research project exemplifies what the NUS SSR aims to achieve -- policy relevant research that collaborates with the social service community to find solutions for Singapore's social needs. The research team extends its appreciation to Methodist Welfare Services and participating agencies for their contribution to this important study.
Chapter 13 - Mental health and the criminal justice system
Materials provided by National University of Singapore. Note: Content may be edited for style and length. Science News. Easing the debt burden of low-income individuals Dr Ong explained, "One challenge with poverty alleviation policies is the bedrock belief that the poor are indebted because of personal failings.
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Reducing debt improves psychological functioning and changes decision-making in the poor. ScienceDaily, 26 March National University of Singapore. Debt relief improves psychological and cognitive function, enabling better decision-making. Retrieved October 6, from www.
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