There is a substantial relationship between poverty and health. Long-term poverty and economic insecurity have broad-reaching long-term ill- health consequences. In addition to creating stress, which causes a myriad of health problems, poverty also results in low levels of sanity, high incidences of infectious disease and mental health issues.

Prime indicators that poverty directly affects health are life expectancy, prevalence of chronic or communicable diseases, behavioral and self-control issues and high levels of long-term stress. Long-term poverty imposes a huge burden of stress on the impoverished. The hardships of finding permanent work, taking care of children, finding affordable food and clean water can all take an enormous toll on physical and mental health.

Long-term stress also creates hormones that compromise the immune system, opening the door for communicable diseases. Women who experience high levels of stress during pregnancy are more probable to have children who are predisposed to developing diabetes.

Children are especially susceptible to the health consequences of poverty. Bernard Fuemmeler, associate professor in Community and Family Medicine at Duke University School of Medicine, says that “poverty during childhood not only appears to affect child development, but can have lasting effects on the types of health choices made during adolescence and early adulthood.” His research finds that economic insecurity in the home during childhood can permanently affect the way people make decisions and their ability to self-regulate.

Urban poverty is characterized by crowded, unsanitary conditions that lead to higher incidences of communicable disease. Transmission becomes very easy for highly-infectious diseases the closer people are to one another. Dirty water, unclean food and cook spaces and improper waste disposal are common in crowded areas.

Poor countries as well have high public health obstacles to overcome. Lack of funding, stigma and myth, bureaucratic complications and limited infrastructure all contribute to a reduction in capacity to deal with health crises and public health issues. Low access to vaccines and medication is a particular public health nightmare for poor countries because it creates not only drug resistance but also black markets for hard-to-get medicine.

– Caitlin Huber

Sources: Think Progress, News-Medical, Jama Network, NAS, UN, Wisconsin-Madison
Photo: TIME