Tuesday, January 14, 2014

PBS viewers on poverty plus poverty and recessions damage health for decades

It turns out that PBS had more on poverty in the U.S. than I included in Suburban poverty north and south of the border, as the segments garnered a lot of viewer responses, which were collected in Viewers sound off on NewsHour Weekend stories.

On a new segment called "Viewers like You," NewsHour Weekend fans have the opportunity to sound off on stories and share their opinions with anchor Hari Sreenivasan.
Not only is poverty increasing in the suburbs, it's bad for one's physical and mental health.  It's true even if it's other people's poverty, as the stress of recessions gets to people.  Follow over the jump for  stories from the past three months of Overnight News Digests on Daily Kos that illustrate this point.

Michael Price of SDSU asked on Tuesday, January 7, 2014 Health and Wealth Connected?
By studying Google search data, researchers discovered Americans had more health concerns during the recession.

We ring in the New Year with hopes of being healthy, wealthy, and wise. A new study from epidemiological researchers and long-time colleagues John W. Ayers of San Diego State University and Benjamin Althouse of the Santa Fe Institute and their colleagues suggests that health and wealth may be more strongly connected than previously thought.

The group examined Americans’ Google search patterns and discovered that during the recent Great Recession, people searched considerably more frequently for information about health ailments. The kinds of problems indicated by the queries weren’t life threatening, but they could keep someone in the bed a few days, like ulcers, headaches, and back pain.

In total, the team found there were more than 200 million excess queries of this kind during the Great Recession than expected.
Of course, one's own poverty is bad for ones physical health. Bob Shepard at the University of Alabama at Birmingham noated on Thursday, December 05, 2013 Low-income minority patients with diabetes have low eye-care-usage rates.
Low-income, mostly African-American patients with diabetes seen at a large, public safety-net hospital, have low rates of utilizing eye care, according to a study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham published online Dec. 5 in JAMA Ophthalmology.

Researchers sought to assess eye care among patients with diabetes seen at a county-owned health care facility, Cooper Green Hospital outpatient eye clinic, in 2007. Diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of vision disability and the No. 1 cause of new cases of blindness among working-age adults in the United States.

“Because African-Americans are at twice the risk of Caucasians of being diagnosed with diabetes, and income is related to whether a person receives eye care, we investigated whether low-income persons with diabetes received recommended eye care,” said Paul McLennan, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Surgery and lead author of the study.  “Our results show that, overall, frequency of eye care was low, just 33 percent within the first year, and only 45 percent within two years.”
It's also bad for mental health, as reflected in both clinical studies and literature.  First, the clinical study from Chris Barncard of the University of Wisconsin on Dec. 11, 2013: Poverty influences children’s early brain development.
Poverty may have direct implications for important, early steps in the development of the brain, saddling children of low-income families with slower rates of growth in two key brain structures, according to researchers from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

By age 4, children in families living with incomes under 200 percent of the federal poverty line have less gray matter — brain tissue critical for processing of information and execution of actions — than kids growing up in families with higher incomes.

“This is an important link between poverty and biology. We’re watching how poverty gets under the skin,” says Barbara Wolfe, professor of economics, population health sciences and public affairs and one of the authors of the study, published today in the journal PLOS ONE.
Not only does poverty have developmental effects, it has behavioral effects that lead to more poverty, as another University of Wisconsin press release from Nov. 19, 2013 points out: Speaker to share how distrust contributes to poverty.
Many of the issues associated with poverty in the United States are obvious, such as unemployment, single-parent families and declining wages for less-educated workers. But Temple University sociologist Judith Levine uncovered another, less obvious issue that contributes to poverty: distrust.
Addressing the issue of mistrust may provide another key to helping poor families improve their economic situation. When Levine started interviewing low-income mothers in the mid-1990s, she was interested in their struggles with raising children in poverty and how they made ends meet, not in how the fathers of their kids were unfaithful or caseworkers misrepresented benefits.

But by the time she had completed two rounds of interviews, Levine was convinced that the women's struggles with poverty could not be adequately understood without considering the role of distrust in their lives.
It gets worse if ill health and poverty can be passed down from generation to generation as suggested by a University of California, San Diego study, Parents’ Use of Government Assistance Drives Use in Next Generation by Inga Kiderra on November 14, 2013.
Does the use of government assistance by parents make their children more likely to use welfare, too? Yes, suggests research coauthored by University of California, San Diego economist Gordon Dahl.

The question has been a difficult one and has fueled policy debates for decades. On the one hand, people have argued that “of course it’s cultural.” Kids learn from their elders in all sorts of ways. And it is not hard to imagine that they learn how to navigate the bureaucracy or that the family experience reduces stigma. On the other side, there has been the correlational argument: Poverty and ill health are the real drivers, and as poverty and ill health are inherited so too is the need for assistance.  

Dahl’s work shows a causal component to intergenerational welfare use. But he is careful to note that it doesn’t mean there isn’t also a significant contribution from the cycle of poverty itself or other factors that the study design cannot capture.
Lovely.  Finally, The Daily Telegraph describes the effects of recessions in literature in Economic downturns fuel sad books, claims study.
Authors tend to write books containing sad words around 10 years after an economic downturn, according to a new 'literary misery index'

Authors tend to write more miserable books about 10 years after an economic downturn, a study has claimed.

Researchers compared the number of times certain words appeared in more than five million books to certain periods in American and British history. They found that the frequency of words expressing sadness reflected the economic conditions in the 10 years before a book was written.
Looks like we'll have a lot of sadness in print until the end of the decade and a lot of damage for decades after that.

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