In today’s blog, Dr. Michael Omidi discusses some of the underlying factors that cause many impoverished Americans to suffer poor health.
In March, NPR polled high, medium, and low-income Americans to gauge perceptions on what affects their mental and physical well-being. One third of respondents with a household income below $25,000 indicated that a lack of money has negatively affected their health.
A 2014 University of Albany study found that losing a job increased a person’s odds of developing stress-related conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, or stroke, by 83 percent. It was also indicated in the same study that blue-collar workers were more likely to get laid off due to health-related issues than white-collar workers.
According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, income has declined as rent continues to rise. Those seeking public housing are often faced with excessively long waits, which means that they must “remain in shelters or inadequate housing arrangements longer.” Impoverished neighborhoods are also more likely to have higher rates of crime, which not only increases stress, but is also an extremely negative environment for children who have no other choice but to live there.
Over the past decade, there has been a suspiciously rapid increase in wage garnishment by credit card companies and, surprisingly, nonprofit hospitals. NPR reports an “explosion” of cases like these in which hospitals’ debt collection services will sue lower-income patients for failing to cover medical bills. Heartland, for example, has garnished the wages of over 6,000 people between 2009 and 2013, charging the maximum interest rates allowed under state law. More than two thirds of these patients were uninsured.
According to the USDA, nearly 15 percent of U.S. households lacked enough food “for an active, healthy lifestyle for all household members.” In many cases, especially in urban areas, not getting enough food isn’t the only problem. Many of these areas are considered food deserts, which are marked by a complete lack of access to fresh produce typically found in traditional grocery stores or markets. Instead, residents of impoverished communities are forced to buy food solely from corner stores or convenience stores, which offer nutrient-deficient foods laden with saturated fat and sugar.
Yours in health,
Dr. Michael Omidi