The Psychological Effects of Poverty
For the more than 40 million Americans in poverty, everyday life is a struggle — buying food, going to school, getting a job. And for a great many of them, what most people think of as simple tasks are also difficult. Let’s explore the picture of poverty in the U.S. and the psychological and physical toll it takes.
Poverty in the U.S.
Americans who live below the poverty line
Children living in poverty
2013 poverty line for a single person
That’s the equivalent of working full time and making only about $5.50 an hour, which is far below the minimum wage
Where it’s worst
Percentage of residents below poverty line by state
Less than 11%
The Brain on Poverty
Researchers have determined that the mental strain placed on a poor person is immense, affecting their ability to do well in school, to succeed at work — even to pay bills on time.
Rough IQ drop caused by poverty
Why? While there’s much about the human mind scientists have yet to decode, we do know that mental processing is finite. It’s the reason you think less quickly at the end of a long day.
What does it mean? The limited brain power caused by poverty is likely to create a series of problems in handling everyday tasks. Poverty may affect things like:
- Decision making
Stressed to Death
Adding to the reduced mental capacity brought on by poverty, the poor also have to navigate the rigors of everyday stress, most of which are made far worse by lack of income.
Top causes of stress for U.S. adults
Work Co-worker tension, bosses, overload
Money Loss of job, reduced retirement, medical expenses
Health Health Crisis, terminal or chronic illness
Relationships Divorce, death of spouse, arguments with friends, loneliness
Poor nutrition Inadequate nutrition, caffeine, processed foods, refined sugars
Media overload Television, radio, Internet, email, social networking
Sleep deprivation Inability to release adrenaline and other stress hormones
3 in 4
Americans who regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress
People who cite work and money as their top causes of stress
Physical and psychological symptoms reported (% of those who reported physical or psychological symptoms who said they had the following symptoms)
Upset stomach 34%
Muscle tension 30%
Change in appetite 23%
Teeth grinding 17%
Change in sex drive 15%
Feeling dizzy 13%
Irritability or anger 50%
Feeling nervous 45%
Lack of energy 45%
Feeling as though you could cry 35%