Sunday, May 10, 2015

Impoverished and Overwhelmed

Haven't the poor suffered enough? I mean, they don't earn enough money in the first place, but now we learn that they have worse health? The poor just can't catch a break. To be clear, I'm talking about a study published by the Journal of Health and Social Behavior last week. Scientists reached a consensus that poor people age at a faster rate. Apparently, it's because of the stress.

The results of the study showed that poor people had "shorter telomeres", independent of race. In normal-speak, telomeres are parts of DNA that shorten as humans age, so having shorter telomeres essentially means that a person is aging faster. The study effectively showed that being poor causes deterioration in health. Why is this?

Telomeres (in red) shorten with age.

The authors of the study say that the poor have to deal with "material, psychosocial, and environmental stressors" which lead to deterioration in health. Examples of these stressors include: not having enough money to buy a car (material), not knowing whether you can pay next month's bills (psychosocial), and being forced to live in a dangerous neighborhood because of the cheap housing (environmental). Statistically speaking, these stressors are most prevalent in America's poor

A graphical interpretation of a poll surveying the stress levels of different socio-economic status. (Analysis of Gallup data from Brookings)

From this graph, we can see that poor people have more stress. In fact, they have a greater incidence of each of the negative feelings (pain, worry, sadness, anger) that were polled. Add "faster aging" to that list, and the poor are truly suffering (not that they weren't already). I think this extreme level of suffering by America's poor just goes to show the detrimental effects of America's class system. Factors such as high income inequality as well as low social mobility might be causing insurmountable despair in America's lower class.


  1. Nicely communicated and illuminated, David, but need more of a policy proposal here. How might the so-called 1% respond to this? What's the effect on the American taxpayer? Quotes to analyze?

    1. And the connections to American themes are very clear!