poverty affects the brain - could even be a contributor to bad parenting - agree with the study?

(70 Posts)
fridayfridayfriday Wed 30-Oct-13 16:27:13

The Lasting Impacts of Poverty on the Brain


Poverty shapes people in some hard-wired ways that we're only now beginning to understand. Back in August, we wrote about some provocative new research that found that poverty imposes a kind of tax on the brain. It sucks up so much mental bandwidth – capacity spent wrestling with financial trade-offs, scarce resources, the gap between bills and income – that the poor have fewer cognitive resources left over to succeed at parenting, education, or work. Experiencing poverty is like knocking 13 points off your IQ as you try to navigate everything else. That's like living, perpetually, on a missed night of sleep.

That finding offered a glimpse of what poverty does to a person during a moment in time. Picture a mother trying to accomplish a single task (making dinner) while preoccupied with another (paying the rent on time). But scientists also suspect that poverty's disadvantages – and these moments – accumulate across time. Live in poverty for years, or even generations, and its effects grow more insidious. Live in poverty as a child, and it affects you as an adult, too.

Poor children had problems regulating their emotions as adults.

Some new research about the long-term arc of poverty, particularly on the brain, was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and these findings offer a useful complement to the earlier study. In this new paper, researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago, Cornell, the University of Michigan, and the University of Denver followed children from the age of 9 through their early 20s.

Those who grew up poor later had impaired brain function as adults—a disadvantage researchers could literally see in the activity of the amygdala and prefrontal cortex on an fMRI scan. Children who were poor at age 9 had greater activity in the amygdala and less activity in the prefrontal cortex at age 24 during an experiment when they were asked to manage their emotions while looking at a series of negative photos. This is significant because the two regions of the brain play a critical role in how we detect threats and manage stress and emotions.

Poor children, in effect, had more problems regulating their emotions as adults (regardless of what their income status was at 24). These same patterns of "dysregulation" in the brain have been observed in people with depression, anxiety disorders, aggression and post-traumatic stress disorders.

Over the course of the longitudinal study – which included 49 rural, white children of varying incomes – these same poor children were also exposed to chronic sources of stress like violence and family turmoil, or crowded and low-quality housing. Those kinds of stressors, the researchers theorize, may help explain the link between income status in childhood and how well the brain functions later on. That theory, they write, is consistent with the idea that "early experiences of poverty become embedded within the organism, setting individuals on lifelong trajectories."

To add some of these findings together: Poverty taxes the ability of parents to do all kinds of things, including care for their children. And the developmental challenges that children face in a home full of stressed adults may well influence the adults that they, themselves, become

ShowMeYourTARDIS Wed 30-Oct-13 16:34:34

Agree 100%

I'm studying psychology (with an emphasis on child development) and have read similar studies. Poverty is the single biggest risk factor for poor school outcomes, among other things.

Most families who are poor do an excellent job raising their children. However, if you look at children who are struggling at school, most come from poor families.

KathrynKampbell Wed 30-Oct-13 16:37:47

Is it poverty itself though or the stress caused by poverty rubbing off on everyday life? If you handle poverty without worry and stress are the results the same? I'd be curious about that.

azzbiscuit Wed 30-Oct-13 16:38:26

There may be something in it but some of it just sounds like bollocks written with an agenda. eg:

"capacity spent wrestling with financial trade-offs, scarce resources, the gap between bills and income"

These things take a couple of seconds to think about, and then a decision is made. If these thoughts take up a large proportion of somebodies brain power over the duration of the day, that is an indicator of a lack of brain power, not that so-called poverty is holding the person back.

samandi Wed 30-Oct-13 16:45:38

Like Kathryn, I'm interested to see whether it's basically the effects of stress/depression that have such an effect.

azzbiscuit, plenty of people spend a lot of their day worrying about bills etc. It can get on top of you. If you don't have to worry about money you are certainly free to think about more things/engage in more activities.

It's very interesting.

Crowler Wed 30-Oct-13 16:49:50

I think stress is a mental bandwidth-consumer, yes.

ShowMeYourTARDIS Wed 30-Oct-13 16:55:21

In an article I read earlier this term I remember the author saying something about poverty by itself wasn't a risk factor. It was the root causes of poverty, like lack of education as well as the stress/chaos that accompanied it.

I don't remember the title or the author, but I do remember it was written in the 80s! It's rather old, but it was definitely an interesting read.

intitgrand Wed 30-Oct-13 16:56:24

Azzbizz- it's clear you have never experienced poverty.It is not just a case of quickly making a decision, of ten there is no answer, just relentless stress worry, hassle which grinds people down and down and down.
Your comment is very glib and naïve

missymarmite Wed 30-Oct-13 17:08:20

Having experienced poverty with a little one, I can tell you that money worries become like an obsession. How can you think clearly when you are worrying about how you are going to pay the rent, what will happen to your child if you are made homeless, how are you going to pay the water/electric/gas bill, can you make a meal with that last 49p you found under the sofa? It's relentless. And never simple. X

WooWooOwl Wed 30-Oct-13 17:16:40

It's interesting, but I'm not sure it could be used to factually state that poverty affects the brain based on a study of 49 children who have varying incomes. Especially when you say that the poor children were also exposed to violence and family turmoil - which could well be the real cause of the findings.

My Mum grew up in poverty. Real poverty, not relative. She and her 8 siblings do not reflect these findings at all, and nor does their 86 year old mother who is still healthy and mentally very agile.

mercibucket Wed 30-Oct-13 17:26:40

you get caught up in the day to day how to live
eg going to 3 shops to get the best deals
makes it hard to think about the bigger picture

Rosieeo Wed 30-Oct-13 17:39:18

What a load of crap. Being a bit dim can mean that you're poor, not the other way around. Why the determination to victimize people?

sturdyoak Wed 30-Oct-13 17:47:53

The damaging thing about research such as this is it leading people believing that being poor will definitely cause your brain to develop abnormally. Another thing for parents to feel guilty for.

This is an awful assumption. When does it kick in? Household income of..? This could absolutely be divisive. Should you have above a certain income in order to be deemed a fit parent? Should people who are poor be treated as if they are unable to regulate their emotions, possibly feared or at least treated as a potential risk to society as a result?

All extreme responses, however I can almost see the headlines now...

sinpan Wed 30-Oct-13 18:00:38

Seems almost evident that the stress that accompanies poverty is the problem - stress is often caused by the feeling you are trapped in a situation with no options to get out or improve your situation - there are plenty of studies to support this. I would suggest that we are entering a period when the options to change your situation are possibly more limited than they were in recent years due to a poor outlook for employability in the UK and virtually non-existent support for skills development.

But these comments are based on the conversation not the research - please can we have a link to the research?

superstarheartbreaker Wed 30-Oct-13 18:08:05

On the other hand poverty can be a driving force to success. Constantly assessing trade offs can pead to good acumen with money. Plenty of brats at my private school had no drive as mummy and daddy gave massive hand outs. Mind you greed is motivating.

superstarheartbreaker Wed 30-Oct-13 18:09:58

Wasnt obama from a poor background...and jk rowling?Certainly Dennis Waterman grew up in a council house and us now a multi millionaire. Must be lots if examples.

Preciousbane Wed 30-Oct-13 18:10:04

Well I grew up in poverty and was subjected to extreme violence as a child as well so maybe I should plug myself in to a machine and have a look at my brain. In all honesty it has absolutely shaped me in to who I am. I have done ok in life all things considered but I do have problems that are rooted in my childhood.

sturdyoak Wed 30-Oct-13 18:10:48

I wonder too whether our obsession with linking poverty to brain function is just a perpetuation of the class system in Britain.

ShowMeYourTARDIS Wed 30-Oct-13 18:13:16

Here is a link to the actual research article.


Fulltext is under "Access" on the righthand side.

Preciousbane Wed 30-Oct-13 18:14:15

Barack Obama is the son of college graduates and he admits himself that he grew up being cared for by his Mothers middle class family. He did however have some difficulties being the black child within a white family. I get the feeling it was a bit of an identity thing, which I can also relate to as I am mixed race but grew up with the white side of my family.

NoComet Wed 30-Oct-13 18:19:55

I think we have to separate well educated people who fall into poverty and have at least some ability to cope and families which generations of poor school attainment.

Stress and depression affects both groups and is absolutely retched, but I think the second group have a whole lot of additional insidious problems.

The major one being having never learnt to plan, if you, your parents and your grand parents have never had enough money to see beyond the end of the week, I think it generates a very short term reactionary thought pattern which is incredibly all consuming. IME it leads to fire fighting one set of chos after another without time to think for people who thins thinking pretty stressful.

ShowMeYourTARDIS Wed 30-Oct-13 18:20:07

sorry, proper link

Bonsoir Wed 30-Oct-13 18:28:17

I agree with the research cited in the OP: the more worries you have about ensuring the basics of life, the less mindspace you are going to have available for higher things. It's not rocket science.

NoComet Wed 30-Oct-13 18:29:44

Find thinking stressful.

If you were always in the bottom groups at school, suddenly finding yourself flat broke and in a sea of benefit forms and car insurance quotes is totally bewildering, without your phone running out of credit (causing problems with the first two), and having just £5 to top up phone, eat and put petrol in the car if you sort out the insurance.

Living in the sticks, No car equals no job, equals phoning benefits office, who don't instantly pay people who fall in and out of loads of temporary jobs, repeat week in week out

pianodoodle Wed 30-Oct-13 18:32:36

It wouldn't surprise me at all. People lose sleep worrying about finances and become ill/stressed/depressed etc... That's going to affect how well you function day to day sad

SaucyJack Wed 30-Oct-13 18:39:03

I also think having no money means that you're far less likely to have any quality of life or experiences of culture or socialization.

Museums/art galleries/yadda yadda might be free in London, but getting out and about to enrich the brain is beyond the reach of a good many people no matter how well-meaning the parents are.

whois Wed 30-Oct-13 18:41:48

Way to go azzbiscuit, clearly demonstrating your own frightening lack of intellect and inability to look at a complex issue.

Are you really serious azzbiscuit? Think about the situation for a second, yeah? You have £x of costs (food, electricity, rent, water etc) and your income is £x-y. £x-y is never going to cover £x so you are CONSTANTLY juggling paying a bit here and a bit there, buying a hot of food a bit of electricity 'robbing Peter to pay Paul' as it were.

Seemingly small decisions such as 'shall I get the bus because my DC are tired and it's raining' become huge decisions as you weigh up where you can cut back on if you do get the bus. Every penny needs to be accounted for.

This is reality for a lot of people.

But yeah, actually, fuck em. The poor are all just feckless and really shit at budgeting aren't they? <grrrr!>

LittleRobots Wed 30-Oct-13 18:46:19

It wouldn't surprise me. I'm incredibly well educated but due to ill health and redundancies ended up with a new baby in a dodgy flat. Yes a lot of emotional energy was made making financial decisions. When you have a financial buffer them you can buy clothes not worrying if they're perfect as you can buy something else if not. Not that you will but you have that safety:/

When you're broke you weigh up the cost of the tube journeys and 1 pound entrance to get to toddlers. I'd had money before so it was a completely new kind of stress.

As for parenting I honestly think social circumstances make a difference. Its far easier to parent when you have a warm house, safe environment, money for a good meal, and aren't constantly pre occupied with worry about money, impact on children, if you should move etc.

I thought that sometimes about parenting classes aimed in poor areas. In many cases I think its the circumstances making life tough and leading to bad decisions. A very tired stressed brain doesn't have the same capacity to play as someone without the same pressures.

I often thought money would be better spent trying to improve social conditions rather than some of the patronizing parentingcourses.

So my experience, as an educated middle class mother who fell on hard times would correlate.

notthefirstagainstthewall Wed 30-Oct-13 18:54:36

Presumably the brain is capable of change at many stages of life.

If your child discovers "a way out "such as University or a successful career (despite a brain warped by poverty)they can change their brain function again.

Brains aren't fixed are they? Otherwise people would never get better from depression/strokes/accidents etc

FutTheShuckUp Wed 30-Oct-13 19:13:25

It's not a new concept

sturdyoak Wed 30-Oct-13 19:18:39

It's not a new concept

Yep we'll get talk of the 'deserving poor' next and whilst we're at it the 'Divine Right of Kings'...

All that good breeding, the privilege passing down from generation to generation, even at a genetic level.

(Thank God they've discovered Epigenetics, so not quite set in stone..otherwise where would we be?)

NoComet Wed 30-Oct-13 20:30:37

The trouble is, I believe, the epigenetic responses to things like stress and poor diet are not in a possible direction.

ShowMeYourTARDIS Wed 30-Oct-13 20:49:16

Presumably the brain is capable of change at many stages of life.

The first 5 years have the strongest influence on brain development. Yes, you can change brain functioning even in severely abused and neglected children older than that, but it becomes very very difficult after 10ish.

sturdyoak Wed 30-Oct-13 20:53:29

Epigenetics changes can go both ways, positive and negative.

Whilst stress and diet can affect us for the worse, positive lifestyle changes such as appropriate diet and learning how to cope well with stress, can affect us for the better.

sturdyoak Wed 30-Oct-13 20:57:24

Yes, you can change brain functioning even in severely abused and neglected children older than that, but it becomes very very difficult after 10ish.

Please do not write people off. Some people do succeed against all the odds.

ZZZenagain Wed 30-Oct-13 21:00:59

thankfully I have not experienced poverty first-hand but I have had times when I was worrying so much about something that I wasn't really able to get on with anything very well. Constant worry about how to manage financially would really block you and wear you out. I can see how that works for an adult. Presumably the worry and stress of the parent transmits itself to the child and causes a similar effect.

sturdyoak Wed 30-Oct-13 21:19:22


This book is good. Really makes you think concerning the ethics, political motivations, ethics and implications, in relation to scientific pursuit.

Lazyjaney Wed 30-Oct-13 21:25:14

I suspect it's partly correlation, partly causation - there is no doubt things are tougher with no money, but also it's very obvious that some contributory behaviours that drive bad parenting are also more likely to drive poverty.

imagine then wondering if you should heat your house for a cold night o9r feed your kids

thats just monday

Imagine then you have to think about that same thing on tuesday

Then wednesday sophie needs some new school shoes becuase hers are literally got holes in

Imagine on thursday all the kids in Joshuas class are going on a trip to the local wildlife park - its nothing fancy but its £3.50 you haven't got.
Josh has to stay behind in the year below as there are no teachers to teach him on his own. Josh feels embarrassed, mortified and josh hates you.

Friday Sophie is now getting called 'Tramp' at school and some of the girls are picking on her, she cries when she comes home. Josh still hates you

Saturday - thank god, sophie can wear her pumps. Josh's mate is going to maccy D's with his mum, he asks if he can go, and you are loath to say no, becuase he has had so many knock backs recently. What do you do? You say to josh that you haven't got any change on you at the moment.

Sunday, school uniforms need washing, and ironing. It is pissing down outside

the kids need a good bath

you can't afford to put the hot water on

you can't afford to put the heating on

you are in your emergency leccy money - when the Electric meter runs out - it runs out until you get your tax credits monday

Monday - no money in the bank
you phone up the benefits office, they tell you its been stopped, they give some bullshit explaination
you now have to go to town to see them it is an emergency

there is nothing they can do but send you out new forms they say

but that will take ages you say - you need to speak to someone urgently you say

they 'advise' you to borrow money of family

You tell them you haven't got any family


tell me this shit wouldnt get you down

day in
day out
day in
day out

it isn't any single thing in isolation, it is the cumulative effect of everything

i haven't even mentioned any special needs, child falling behind at school, child fighting at school,

any of the above trying to work part time where you can get it on a zero hour contact, not knowing if you are working next week

or any childcare issues

or throw into the mix an ex partner

until you have had all the cushions out on the sofa looking for change so you can buy a packet of pasta or emptied your kids money boxes or the 1.34p they have saved so you can buy some electric - you cannot possibly possibly comprehend the black cloud that engulfs your whole world

sturdyoak Wed 30-Oct-13 21:48:52

Thing is Hell would you want your children to be written off as helpless causes or assumptions to be made about their ability to control their emotions? Would you want parenting ability to be questioned purely due to income? Labelled a risk factor?

The worse case scenario is all this and any hope for the future to be taken away too.

ShowMeYourTARDIS Wed 30-Oct-13 21:53:20


It is not impossible. That's why I said it's "very very difficult". It is better to identify at-risk children (and families) as soon as possible so the family unit can get the help they need.

I would definitely not "write off" an older child, or even an adult. It is just easier for everyone if interventions occur earlier rather than later.

CaterpillarCara Wed 30-Oct-13 22:03:15

But what do you mean "write them off as helpless causes"?

Surely this research is about understanding what problems poverty causes and then hopefully alleviating it. I don't see any conclusion that says "so in conclusion, the children of the poor are hopeless cases to be ignored".

If Hell's children do get stressed about something at university, say, maybe it is helpful to know that some stresses may feel more stressful to them than to others, for example. Not to write them off, but to give extra empathy?

sturdyoak Wed 30-Oct-13 22:09:17

TARDIS that is one way of looking at it. However since the science concerning brain mapping is incomplete, the bio-semantics not fully understood, this intervention, is experimental at best. It is a fundamental human right not to be experimented on without your consent.

Help, yes. However this should be in the form of financial help, if indeed it is the effects of poverty that are being tackled. If not, well, as I have said the science is by no means complete. Read the book up thread, I recommended, for some of the past horrors done in the name of science. Making assumptions about a persons mental capacity and linking this with income is only the start.

sturdyoak Wed 30-Oct-13 22:12:38

One person's extra empathy is another person's treating someone as inevitably inferior. It is a fine line between the two and one worth noting in order to stay on the right side of it.

manicinsomniac Wed 30-Oct-13 22:30:15

I totally agree with sturdyoak

I believe that the study could be valid.

But I think the negative outcomes from said study will outweight any support that might come from it. It's not going to change the fact that people are poor, just give both poor people and others another stick to beat themselves/them with.

ShowMeYourTARDIS Wed 30-Oct-13 22:41:08


Yes, I meant interventions such as additional financial help, food boxes, transportation, job training, childcare options etc. No experimentation involved.

There has been a lot more research about the developing brain in recent years. Everything I've read says that trauma, especially prolonged trauma, has a more severe effect on the young brain than an older brain.

I'm American so I'm not familiar with the British welfare system but it's crap here. The government is trying to cut food stamps by $40 billion and 1 in 5 children already go to bed hungry. sad Thankfully, it is unlikely to pass.

Thing is Hell would you want your children to be written off as helpless causes or assumptions to be made about their ability to control their emotions?

no, but children are every single day - they just are, our school systems do it daily.

Would you want parenting ability to be questioned purely due to income?
no, but they are. the parenting ability of people in poverty is questioned - becuase they are in poverty.

Labelled a risk factor?

no, however there are quite clearly risks associated with poverty that need to be addressed and this requires public money.

The worse case scenario is all this and any hope for the future to be taken away too -

for many this is already the case sadly.

sturdyoak Wed 30-Oct-13 22:50:25

It is not always so clear cut here. Due to the targeted funding schools receive that is to be spent for children that receive free school meals, the link between poverty and poor educational attainment is already assumed.

It is up to schools how they spend this targeted funding. Unfortunately some of it is spent on badly thought out 'Nurture Groups' which seem to employ every new Pop psychology fad going. Makes you question whether it is the label of poverty that results in these children receiving an inferior education, the confusion caused by pseudo psychological practices causing some barriers to healthy emotional development.


are you saying the label of poverty itself maketh poor children badly educated?

We've also upended our old and battered second hand sofa and slit open the fabric at the bottom to get at any money that had gone down there. Found a fiver once and we were overjoyed.

Thats poverty for you.

"There is no single explanation for why learners from
poor backgrounds do badly in educational terms.
Rather, there are multiple factors implicated at the
individual, immediate social and broader societal levels.
There are no magic bullets that will enable such learners
to perform as well and derive the same educational
benefits as their more advantaged peers. Instead, what
are needed are interventions which address the full
range of factors and which operate at all three levels. "

from JRF links between poverty and education

what is noticable from the JRF report (2007) is that many of the interventions they cite, have now not got funding

sturdyoak Wed 30-Oct-13 23:02:25

Not to mention the damage caused to people experiencing financial hardship through validation of the practise of labelling them as bad parents who cannot be trusted to control their emotions. Not great for establishing a good communicative relationship with their child's school or indeed any other professionals.

sturdyoak Wed 30-Oct-13 23:05:34

The interventions are not regulated. Schools decide how to spend their targeted funding.

national initiatives such as Sure Start had robust reporting mechanisms.

Im not sure i follow your argument at all.

sturdyoak Wed 30-Oct-13 23:15:53

Not all interventions are National Initiatives. The report you cited, says,

Initiatives such as Excellence in Cities, Connexions, Sure Start, Educational Maintenance Allowance and full service extended schools focus mainly on immediate social factors and the problems these cause directly for individuals and communities. These interventions have been undertaken in a piecemeal fashion and so far have had only a very partial impact in breaking the link between poverty and poor educational attainment.

I do not like pseudo psychological, non evidence based, practice. The Science is not complete.

RhondaJean Wed 30-Oct-13 23:21:56

Isnt a lot of it to do with maternal and infantile cortisol levels?

thecatfromjapan Wed 30-Oct-13 23:23:53

I'm side-stepping the whole educational achievement-poverty thing.

Just want to say that I err towards thinking of poverty as trauma -inducing and I am thinking this report would seem to confirm that.

the science of what is not complete?

i never stated they were all national initiatives

you have not stated what 'regulation' means in your context

the report does indeed state your quote - THEN states what i posted above.

You don't state the reason for the quote you posted - what are you arguing?

there are clear evidence based indicators that poverty is linked to poor educational standards. JRF is just one of many texts you can find to support this.

however i am still unsure as to whether you have an opposing argument and if you do perhaps you could present some evidence for it.

What JRF state is that the interventions did not have a joined up coherent approach to tackling the problem not that the problem does not exist.

if you are stating that the original report in the op is pseudo psychological non evidence based bullshit, i would tend to agree.

sturdyoak Thu 31-Oct-13 07:32:55

HellCrustyMouth I am not arguing anything, merely warning that there are dangerous implications to this kind of study. Essentially, yes, I am against 'pseudo-psychological non evidence based bullshit'.

My quote confirmed that there has been no consistent use of interventions to tackle deprivation linked poor educational attainment to support my assertion that these interventions are somewhat experimental.

Lack of regulation in my previous posts referred to interventions being undertaken on an ad hoc, piecemeal, basis in schools. Nurture groups, discussing 'feelings' etc can be lead by TAs with little or no psychological training for example.

Yes, there may be a link between poverty and poor educational achievement however when a study aims to show detrimental changes in brain development of the people who face financial challenges I am reminded of Foucault's views, regarding the disturbing relationship between power and being deemed qualified to label somebody as sane or insane.

I am not saying this report is guilty of this, however it does not take much of a stretch of the imagination to see the danger in the study's implications...

sturdyoak Thu 31-Oct-13 08:19:08

Sorry my last post was to HellMouthCusty

Trigglesx Thu 31-Oct-13 08:45:05

and yet the government is looking at making more cuts to those who already cannot afford to make ends meet.....


Preciousbane Thu 31-Oct-13 10:18:09

Hell your post was very useful showing just how desperately tiring it is living in poverty. My family lived like that, I don't live like that anymore but I do still have major hang ups about money and find it hard to spend money on anything that is not a necessity.

The only thing I do indulge myself with is food hoarding, I'm dreadful the fear of hunger has never left me.

I agree no one wants their dc written off nor any adult just because they are poor.

A poster wrote on the board once how she lived in a huge estate in Glasgow and how potential employers discounted applications from the postcodes deemed dodgy of that estate, in other words poor.

fanjobiscuits Thu 31-Oct-13 10:20:54

How have they dealt with the causation vs correlation question?

UrbaneLandlord Fri 01-Nov-13 23:27:51

What hasn't been mentioned in this thread is the REAL poverty that exists for 100s of millions of people in the developing world. This REAL poverty simply does not exist in this country. Anyone who believes otherwise should go and spend some time in a poor African community: that will change their perspective, as it has mine.

If poverty really "affects the brain" and causes "bad parenting", then why aren't these communities full of despondent stressed-out shells of human beings and feral children? In fact, my experience is that many of them are amongst the happiest people I have met in my life.

It is the case that the poorest communities in the UK are in fact well up the premier league of affluence on a global & historical scale. Free schools, health-care, subsidised or free accommodation in well-built & serviced flats or houses, world-class communications and transport, etc, etc, etc.

I suggest that many people of the political left continue to fundamentally fail to understand basic human nature. They wrongly believe that social equality imposed on the people by the state through taxation & redistribution will create happiness for individuals & communities.

The reality is that, for most people, there is no relationship between wealth and either happiness or mental well-being. There is, however, a very strong relationship between self-accompllshment and happiness. Unfortunately, it is often the case that state intervention to redistribute wealth through social security actually increases unhappiness because the recipients are then deprived of their sense of self-accomplishment. There are a great many individuals who would be much be much happier if their JSA was stopped and they were compelled to get on their bike and cycle to the next town to work 12 hour shifts washing dishes or sweeping the streets.

Apart from self-accomplishment, I think the other important factor in happiness & mental well-being is social-acceptance & community-belonging. The state cannot create this for its people; people have to create it for themselves. But I have experienced that this has a high presence in many VERY poor communities in the developing world where there is precious little intervention by their central state. A big factor in their own happiness and why I was made so welcome.

superstarheartbreaker Fri 01-Nov-13 23:33:35

Urbane...whllst I do think that employment = hapoiness it is not as simple as all that.

Laquitar Sat 02-Nov-13 01:02:02

Oh dear. Dont let the Tories see this 'research'. Next theywill sterilize the poor.
Yy to sturdy. I ve read the book, really good.

ILetHimKeep20Quid Sat 02-Nov-13 08:10:41

Absolutely agree.

Living in poverty isn't quickly deciding whether to buy the whole grain or the value loaf then trotting merrily on with your day. It's being reduced to tears when a pair of shoes are outgrown because replacing them means taking money from something else essential. It's an exhausting, relentless juggling act.

Jinsei Sat 02-Nov-13 08:44:13

Hmm, I'm not sure. I don't doubt at all that stress can take up large amounts of "mental bandwidth", and poverty can certainly lead to very high levels of stress and anxiety, so it sort of makes sense from that point of view.

However, I've worked with young people from some incredibly impoverished backgrounds in developing countries (I'm talking absolute poverty here), and their difficult backgrounds seem to be the source of all their drive and aspirations, often urged on by their parents, who see educational success as the only way out of the poverty trap.These young people have gone on to be incredibly successful. My DH came from a similar background - the son of illiterate peasant farmers. He would say that his background drove him to aspire to something better.

Perhaps it is not just poverty alone that takes up the mental energy, but the perception that there is no way out?

Seems like common sense that when you are under immense stress and probably very miserable that you aren't going to be totally on top form mentally, add to that the fact that you probably aren't eating well or sleeping well or in brilliant health, that's all going to contribute.

I know just one of those things in isolation makes it harder for me personally to think clearly, but in combination?

HexU Sat 02-Nov-13 11:22:24


New scientist had article about farmers IQ changing with access to how much food and money they had either side of harvest.

There is also research showing that there is a limit to will power - it's why giving up smoking and dieting is together tends to fail and why diets are often broken towards end of day when 'will power' limit has been reached.

So I'm not surprised.

You'll also have poor nutrition affecting DC and mental abilities of adults.

Then there is the whole trap aspect - everyone who has any drive and ambition gets out leaving behind those you don't - it's a know phenomenon in geographical areas my DH having come from one.

However there are always going to be some individual who have personalities to overcome poor starts - whole idea of weed DC and orchids. The weed DC do well what ever their start in life but the orchids have genetics that attune them more to their environments - so good start they fly not good they sink more.


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