TITLE: FACTORS THAT INFLUENCE POOR HEALTH
GREGORY PICONE, PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIVERSITY
Healthcare has made a huge impact on the US over the years. In fact, we spend the most on healthcare than any other country in the world. Then why is it that our country has worse health and shorter life expectancies than those in other countries across the globe. This poor health and shorter lives I am describing is not only based on poor Americans, our health in middle class and even wealthier Americans is still on the lower end of the spectrum when compared to other countries. The information below will give an idea of how education and income play a huge role on individual’s health in our country.
JUST A QUICK GLANCE
- When discussing the relationship between education and income in terms of health, it is described as “The socioeconomic Gradient in Health”
- The U.S. is one of the highest child poverty rates among industrialized countries (Only Romania is Higher)
- More than one in five American children is poor, in 2010 23.1% of children (0-17yrs of age) were living in poverty
- Poverty, Income, and bad health are all related and becoming a domino effect through parents to children and continuing in this path
- Higher income equals better health due to nutritious foods and less stress because of the lower amounts of economic day to day hardships. Higher education equals better health as well due to more knowledge and education resulting in higher income jobs.
- Low Income and educational status parents are more likely to have demanding jobs which offer few opportunities for autonomy. These jobs have been associated with adverse health outcomes, including heart disease.
- Low Income jobs offer less benefits such as:
- Employer sponsored medical insurance
- Paid and personal leave
- Workplace wellness programs
- Child and elder care resources
- Retirement benefits
Due to these limitations in the work force, parents or young adults acquire an abundance of stress on a daily basis which can be more damaging than few very stressful events in a person’s lifetime
- The bodily wear and tear associated with chronic stress may accelerate aging
- The body response to stress through the brain and immune system, the process produces cortisol and a prolonged exposure to cortisol can damage many organs and systems within the body
- The poorest/least educated groups have the worst health
- 25yr old college graduates can expect to live 8-9 yrs. longer than those who did not graduate high school and 2-4 yrs. longer than those who attended college but did not graduate.
- Babies whose mothers who have not finished high school are twice as likely to die before reaching their first birthdays as babies born to college graduates
- Higher education equals lower rates of diabetes and heart disease (The leading cause of death in U.S.). Those who did not graduate are 2.5 times more likely to have heart disease than those who graduate college and those with some college are 1.5 times more likely than their counterpart graduates
- Lower educational status accounts for almost half the deaths in the U.S.
- Why does education relate to health?? Education can increase knowledge, problem-solving, and coping skills which in the end leads to better informed choices even when it comes to one’s health.
- Housing discrimination has limited the ability of many blacks and Hispanics to live in health-promoting communities
- Same income level blacks and Hispanics are more likely to live in poor communities compared to whites
- Alcohol, tobacco, and convenience stores lay in minority youth communities in order to target that specific population.
- Healthy Role Models are scarce within these communities
- This offers youth limited amounts of employment opportunities and limited public resources such as transportation availability
- Communities tell the story on someone’s life expectancy
- Life expectancy varies as much as 25yrs across nearby neighborhoods just a few miles apart in New Orleans and other significant years in other U.S. areas
- Mental Health illnesses have also become a very significant factor inside U.S. health problems of late. People who have mental illnesses are likely to die 25yrs earlier than people with similar demographic characteristics in the general population.
People living with a serious mental illness tend to die 25 years earlier than people with similar demographic characteristics in the general population
Approximately 50% of students age 14 and older who are living with a mental illness drop out of high school. This is the highest dropout rate of any disability group.
When children with untreated mental disorders become adults, they use more health care services and incur higher healthcare costs than other adults. Left untreated, childhood disorders are likely to persist and lead to a downward spiral of school failure, limited or non-existent employment opportunities and poverty in adulthood. No other illnesses harm so many children so seriously.
This poster presentation shows the correlation between how Income and Education can affect health outcomes. The lower the education received coordinates with lower income and lower paying jobs can place individuals or families in poor communities with limited opportunities, can cause stress which is a direct indicator toward bad health. Also, Individuals in poor communities generally have shorter life expectancies than those of the same demographic in other communities.
Mental illnesses also have a direct impact on poor health and are more likely in people with poor health due to substance abuse or exposure to numerous amounts of stress. Untreated behavioral disorders are costly to society and cause unnecessary disability, unemployment, family disruption, and homelessness which all lead to more costs.
Furthermore, mental illnesses tend to start in children at the age of 14, a young time in an individual’s life. This indicates that this illness could substantially defeat a child’s future for opportunities. Experience from the past tells us that interventions that address only one factor at a time often fail, because the pathways leading to health are more complex so solutions therefore must be complex as well.
I believe these mental illnesses may be the host to what causes these factors that lead to poor health and as a country should bump up treating these illnesses as a priority. Treating and diagnosing depression illnesses alone has an ROI (Return on Investment) of $7 for every $1 invested. This shows that treating mental illnesses will not only benefit the generally health of our economy, but will also benefit the financial aspect of our economy too.
 Braveman, P., & Egerter, S. (2013). Overcoming Obstacles to Health. N.p.: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Retrieved July 14, 2013
 Facts on Children’s Mental Health in America (2012). In nami.org. Retrieved July 20, 2013
 Miller, J. E. (2012). Too Significant To Fail: The Importance of State Behavioral Health Agencies in the Daily Lives of Americans with Mental Illness, for their families, and for their Communities. Virginia: National Association of State Mental. Retrieved July 17, 2013
Published In/Presented At
Picone, G. (2013, July 26). Factors That Influence Poor Health. Poster presented at: Research Day 2013, Lehigh Valley Health Network, Allentown, PA.
Research Scholars, Research Scholars - Posters
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