The study was jointly authored by researchers from NUS and Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS). Between January 2015 and August 2017 by Dr A field research was conducted. Ong Associate, and Qiyan Professor Irene Ng from the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, as well as Associate Professor Walter Theseira from SUSS School of Business. The research findings were published in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The study included 196 chronically indebted low-income individuals who benefitted from the Getting away from Debt (GOOD) program handled by Singapore-based charity Methodist Welfare Services. 1,500 and had outstanding chronic bills owed for at least six months.
Such debts included home loan or rental, utilities, town council taxes, telco bills, and hire purchase bills. The research team designed a thorough household financial study that measures anxiety and cognitive functioning as well as financial decision-making of the participants. The study was conducted before the debt was received by the participant’s comfort and three months after credit card debt relief. The study, which is the to begin its kind, found that the participants had experienced less anxiety and improved cognitive functioning, and they could make better financial decisions three months after receiving debt relief.
Between two individuals getting the same amount of credit card debt relief, the participant with more personal debt accounts eliminated showed more mental and cognitive improvements. These findings concur that being chronically in debt impairs psychological functioning and decision-making. The findings also imply that people view each debt as a separate “mental account” and being “in the red” in many debt accounts is psychologically painful. Thus, considering these accounts consumes mental resources, raises worsens and stress on cognitive performance.
This emotional impact may prevent the poor from making the right decisions to escape poverty, further adding to the poverty capture. Assoc Prof Theseira said that we now have differences in the way the poor and the non-poor manage their bad debts and that the poor needs more assistance. The research workers suggest that policy interventions that streamline bills would improve cognitive and emotional working significantly, and reduce counterproductive behavior. For example, restructuring or consolidating personal debt could be a more sustainable plan as it is less costly and far better than simply clearing debts. More generally, poverty alleviation interventions should focus on and reduce the factors that contribute to the mental burdens of the poor.
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