Being poor may lead to health issues, new study finds. Poverty and other kinds of socioeconomic adversity early in life might lead to disease later. As researchers at the University of Georgia found, poverty, low education and disadvantaged community has both direct and indirect long-term effects on young adults’ cardio-metabolic disease risk.
The goal of the research was to find links, if there are any, between adolescents’ early life experiences and young adults’ health. The researchers found that early socioeconomic adversity has a direct impact on cardio-metabolic health, but it also does do damage indirectly in more complicated ways. Adversity, such as poverty, low education and disadvantaged community, negatively influenced the development of self-esteem, personality and educational attainment. These psychosocial resources proved detrimental to disease risk, including diseases such as diabetes, heart disease or even stroke.
The researchers conducted the study using a “resource focused model” examining the positive psychosocial resources mentioned above. Health outcomes were measured by nine bio-markers including blood pressure, blood glucose level and body mass index. The study included data from more than 12,000 young adults currently aged 25-34. Scientists think that discovered connection between psychosocial resources and disease risk is here because of multiple factors, including neurological pathways and poor health behaviours.
K.A.S. Wickrama, the Athletic Association Endowed Professor in human development and family science, who led the study, said that explanations why there is a connection between socioeconomic adversity and health can be psychological. “Youth in a poor family or poor community likely feel less valuable, have lower self-worth and lower self-esteem than youth in families with more socioeconomic capital”, he said, “early socioeconomic adversity manifests itself directly in the form of impaired cognitive development and educational attainment.”
Differences between genders have also been noticed. The association between psychosocial resources and cardio-metabolic risk was statistically significant for women but not for men. Even though development of psychosocial resources of men is impaired by early adversity too, this does not seem to lead to cardio-metabolic risk for young adults as it does for women.
Another study conducted by scientists of University of Georgia links early adversity to poor physical health outcomes based on stressful events that can lead to a rush into adulthood, such as teenage pregnancy or dropping out of high school. Scientists called this phenomenon a person’s allostatic load, or weathering. Catherine Walker O’Neal, one of the co-authors of the study, said that recovering from such psychological traumas is very difficult, because they damage person’s psychological health similarly as weather damages rocks (hence, the weathering).
Findings of the studies may help creating social programs for intervention and prevention Scientists believe that these researches provided good knowledge about multiple intervening points and areas where programs could step in and stop the cycle of socioeconomic adversity damaging health of young adults. Of course, more research has to be done and findings have to be used to create recommendations for institutions responsible for social programs.