Your credit score may reveal more than your spending habits

credit card

Credit score requests have become quite commonplace in today’s society. Your bank uses your credit score to decide how much interest to charge on your loan; your life insurer uses it to set your premiums; prospective employers even use it when making hiring decisions.

A credit score encapsulates a host of prior financial decisions, which many believe reflects attributes that are harder to measure such as trustworthiness and personal responsibility. Now research has shown that credit scores are correlated with physical health.

A study of 1,037 New Zealanders, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, has found that credit scores correlate with risk of heart disease: the lower the score, the higher the risk.

At first, the researchers speculated that people with higher credit ratings tended to be wealthier and have access to better health care, while those with lower scores might tend to have more stressful lives. But they found that these factors did not fully explain the correlation.

The single largest contributing factor, accounting for 45 percent of the correlation, was personality. People who had responsible spending patterns tended to have higher credit ratings and also tended to have more responsible habits in other aspects of their lives, which contributed to better health.

The researchers went back to the childhood histories of the subjects, and found that those who had exhibited more self-control and delayed gratification as kids tended to have higher credit scores and better cardiovascular health as adults. The differences were as much as 100 points in credit score and four years in heart age.

Researchers speculate that credit ratings may correlate similarly with other aspects of health such as lung disease and diabetes. This also raises some serious privacy issues. Considering how much your credit score reveals about your health condition, financial habits, and personality, people might become more concerned about how this single number is shared and used.

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