How poverty changes your brain

Poverty:

When you’re poor, it can be hard to go grab a cheeseburger or buy the newest video game, but that’s not the worst part. The tough part is that even if you get rich, the effects of poverty stick with you.

World bank Statement as of 2011:

As of 2011, the World Bank estimates that 17 per cent of people lived at or below a dollar twenty-five a day — that’s just over a billion people. In 1981 it was closer to 2 billion, so we’re making progress[1]! In 2013, the official poverty rate in the. S. was 14.5 per cent — totaling around 45.3 million poor people in the wealthiest country in the world [2]. Governments worldwide are fighting poverty in several ways, and not just because it’s the right thing to do, science says poverty HARMS you.

2013’s research study on Poverty:

A 2013 study published in Science [3], explored how poverty impairs overall cognitive function. They looked at farmers both pre and post-harvest of a cash crop of sugar cane. After the harvest of the cane, nutrition wasn’t immediately improved, but the influx of cash gave the farmers financial security.

That security gave their cognitive performance boost! Post-harvest farmers were able to make better decisions than pre-harvest farmers did [4]. Poverty is a combination of stressors which, as a whole, are not fully understood by science.

The findings in Science suggest stress alone doesn’t explain all of poverty’s effects on humankind, and that being in poverty keeps the brain from processing information properly. But how those effects manifest seems to vary.

For example, a study released last month in Nature Neuroscience [5] found a link between physical brain development and poverty level. In a study of the brain images of nearly 11 hundred children, adolescents and young adults from around the US, researchers found significant differences in the brains of children in the lowest income bracket; even when controlling for ethnic background; in comparison to those in a high bracket.

Families who lived on less than 25,000 dollars a year had as much as 6 per cent less surface area in their brain in areas like language and decision-making than families who made more than 150,000 dollars a year.

Poverty effects on Mental Health:

Poverty’s effects on the brain cause excess stress on children, both psychological and physiological! Poor children can suffer from substandard housing, homelessness, inadequate child care, under-resourced schooling, and of course inadequate nutrition.

All of these can then cause stress leading to anxiety, depression and low-self-esteem, as well as a tendency toward violence [6]. In a study of 44 African American infant girls, the brains of those from poorer families were smaller than those of wealthier families! Even at only one month old, the effects of poverty can be seen on the physical structures of the human brain.

State of extreme Poverty:

Extreme poverty is a real hardship, affecting people even after they’ve risen above the poverty line. Familial stressors like “family disruption, financial stress and maternal poor health [7]” can cause obesity in children; which is easy to overcome.

Plus, anxiety, low self-esteem and differing brain structures all require future attention from healthcare, which could be avoided by raising children and families out of poverty. In families with low socioeconomic status, shifts of even a few thousand dollars of extra family income were visible in the brain structures! Governments around the world are working hard to find solutions.

In the U.S. our poverty solutions involve giving tax breaks, food stamps, and social security programs to poorer individuals — though many politicians scoff at these ideas, the poverty rate has declined.

One recent study conducted in Kenya showed that when poor people are given money, they spend it on education, healthcare and housing improvements, all of which decrease the stress on them and their children [8].

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