They say you can’t buy love, but maybe you can buy happiness — in the form of your home loan.

That, at least, is one of the possible takeaways from a new study that found different types of debt have significantly different impacts on people’s level of satisfaction. The study asked more than 1,000 Americans about their debt, happiness and self-esteem and came to a conclusion that should be of interest to anyone in the real estate industry: Of the various forms of debt, mortgages are most correlated with satisfaction.

Overall, the study found that 86 percent of people with mortgages reported being satisfied with their lives. That was the highest percentage for any type of debt. It was followed in a close second by people with auto loans, 82 percent of whom reported being satisfied.

At the other end of the spectrum, only 64 percent of people with medical debt reported being satisfied — the lowest percentage of any debt types included in the study. People with student loan debt only faired slightly better, with 71 percent saying they were satisfied with their lives.

Mortgages also apparently lead to less shame than other kinds of debt. Of the study respondents, only 57 percent said they were ashamed of their mortgages, while 76 percent said the same of their medical debts.

Unsurprisingly, people with no debt at all tended to agree in higher percentages with statements such as “I live a meaningful life” and “I live life to its fullest” than people with any type of debt.

The study was conducted by The Ascent, a financial services arm of market reporting website The Motley Fool.

The study also probed into other ways that finances influence overall well-being. For example, it notes that while money can have a correlation to higher life satisfaction in poorer countries, in wealthier parts of the world, “money itself is hardly a direct pathway to happiness.”

Of the people who responded to researchers for the study, 56 percent also “said money could buy happiness ‘to an extent,’ and another 17 percent said it absolutely could.”

Additionally, the study found that in the U.S. consumer debt “has been on the rise for 17 quarters in a row, as of the third quarter in 2018.”

The study results are arguably good news for real estate professionals, whose jobs often involve helping people take on more debt related to their housing.

For the most part, it seems, borrowers appear to agree with the study’s authors who wrote that “not all debt is created equal” and mortgages are “generally considered to be good debt.”

Email Jim Dalrymple II

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