It has long been realized that members of the lower socioeconomic classes are at a severe disadvantage on a number of fronts. Their financially destitute status creates a host of additional problems for their families. There is limited funding for proper nourishment and certainly a decrease in access to medical assistance. The health inequalities found in the differing social classes are astronomical.

In fact, research reveals that members of lower socioeconomic classes are far more susceptible to a vast array of health maladies. Their life expectancy is significantly decreased. And, the research suggests that there is increased potential for mental health issues, low birth weight, and various addictive behaviors.

Due to the limited income, people in lower socioeconomic groups are more willing to accept dangerous employment. Therefore, their chances of contracting work related illnesses is elevated. They are prone to work with toxic chemicals and in potentially deadly situations for the sake of making more money. However, this desire for financial stability is hindered by the significant health risks they take.

Beliefs about Health and Socio-Economic Status

There are those who foster seemingly antiquated beliefs about the evolution of man. These same people take the stance that health related issues are the causal factors in one’s lower socio-economic position. This is the converse of the understanding that one’s limited finances contributes to the inability to acquire proper medical care.

Those adhering to what is known as the social selection approach, contend that the healthier individuals in society will rise to the top. They believe this is because good health is a requirement for career and financial success. Sadly, there has been some research to back this mentality. Some performed in the 60s suggested that those with chronic bronchitis were found in the lower socioeconomic ranks whereas the higher ranking individuals did not suffer from this disease. And, in the 80s, research showed that women with better bodies, heavier babies, and taller heights were part of the upper class.

Thankfully, this is not the end all be all of the research in this field. The other thought process, the cultural/behavioral approach, suggests the health issues experienced by those in the lower classes is directly correlated to their behavioral and cultural positions. It implies that the bad health choices the lower classes voluntarily make are the causation of their current health inequalities. As such, this position strives to offer education to that populace as a means of informing them on diet and lifestyle decisions that will improve their lives. Their goal is to re-educate the lower socioeconomic classes for the purpose of initiating healthier choices.

The Truth of the Matter

What people often fail to realize is that we live in an exclusivist society. When the lower socioeconomic classes acquire the proper education and support to make better life choices, they find it difficult to truly access those options. The cheaper, newer, stores where their money can get the fullness of its worth, are located in other parts of town. Since these individuals frequently are without their own modes of transportation, they cannot travel to these stores.

This leaves them at a distinct disadvantage. They are forced to shop in neighborhood stores where food and necessities pricing is significantly higher. In turn, they end up eating less nutrient rich food because things like fresh produce and fruits are always more expensive than canned and preserved varieties. Meats and other healthy items get passed up for quick fix foods that are notably cheaper. This allows a plethora of carcinogenic chemicals into their bodies and undoubtedly contributes to the decreased life expectancies.

Additionally, the men in these environments are at higher risks for job related illnesses and deaths. It is not that these men choose to work in deadly situations, but it would appear there are limited options due to the proclivity for these men to be undereducated and undervalued. Consider also, the locale of the homes these individuals preside in. They are often urban areas with little green space available for leisure or exercise.

Research reveals that lower status social group membership can suggest one’s propensity for increased mortality and poorer health. This information follows a pattern no matter how many people would like to suggest that it is a random occurrence. People in lower socio-economic states suffer a higher degree of health related problems and find themselves unable to acquire the necessary medical help to alleviate their distress.

In Summation

There is no definitive research to prove causality here. That is why we suggested that these bits of research are belief based. When one takes the stand that people are poor because they are not physically well enough to be anything but, then one demeans the position of those who are in that state. Condescension is never the proper position to take. Yet, there are some pieces of research that would suggest health determines status.

On the flip side, there are additional tidbits of documentation that would imply people in lower socio-economic situations are at a distinct disadvantage based on their locales. This belief position concedes that people in this group are unable to rise above because their opportunities are limited. There are fewer financially lucrative careers, less budget assisting stores, and no natural space to truly work out the proper methods of good health.

The position one takes on this debate will drastically alter the way one sees members of the lower socioeconomic classes. Will we believe that they are there because they are weaker than the rest of us? Or will we take pity on their hindered success?

No matter which side of the coin we chose to associate ourselves with, the fact remains, people in prolonged financial destitution will experience higher levels of health problems than those with access to proper medical assistance. Poor people will be sicker and die younger, probably not because they started out less healthy, but because they are trapped in the cycle. The question then is, what are we going to do about it?

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  1. F.M says:

    How is this relevant to our society?

  2. Alan Rogers says:

    An interesting essay. It reveals the problem of correlation not necessarily indicating causation. There is undoubtedly a correlation between wealth and health but this is confounded by a correlation between poor diet and lack of physical activity and poor education, unemployment and casual employment.
    Correlation between Ill-health and poverty. Correlation between location and poor services and so on. Suppose a “poor person” wins a lottery prize which elevates them in terms of wealth to the “upper middle classes”. Will health and life expectancy necessarily improve? Has anyone studied this? Can research projects be devised to reliably confirm that a causal relationship (rather than a correlation only) exists between wealth and health?
    Still more questions than answers I fear.

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