Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Poverty, Stress, And Loss Of Control

Any foray into the far-right blogosphere necessitates contact with Ayn Rand inspired rhetoric that assures readers that all can easily pull themselves up by their bootstraps with a little willpower and elbow grease.(Those posts frequently mix more metaphors than the previous sentence does.) The New York Times reports on a study that shows that poverty takes away many tools that the well off take for granted, especially a sense of control:
That sense of control tends to decline as one descends the socioeconomic ladder, with potentially grave consequences. Those on the bottom are more than three times as likely to die prematurely as those at the top. They’re also more likely to suffer from depression, heart disease and diabetes. Perhaps most devastating, the stress of poverty early in life can have consequences that last into adulthood.
Even those who later ascend economically may show persistent effects of early-life hardship. Scientists find them more prone to illness than those who were never poor. Becoming more affluent may lower the risk of disease by lessening the sense of helplessness and allowing greater access to healthful resources like exercise, more nutritious foods and greater social support; people are not absolutely condemned by their upbringing. But the effects of early-life stress also seem to linger, unfavorably molding our nervous systems and possibly even accelerating the rate at which we age.
The early effects last throughout an individual's life:
Scientists can, in fact, see the imprint of early-life stress decades later: there are more markers of inflammation in those who have experienced such hardship. Chronic inflammation increases the risk of degenerative diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Indeed, telomeres — the tips of our chromosomes — appear to be shorter among those who have experienced early-life adversity, which might be an indicator of accelerated aging. And scientists have found links, independent of current income, between early-life poverty and a higher risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and arthritis in adulthood.
If there is an ongoing class war, it looks as if the rich will win by attrition.

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