Psychological Effects of Poverty Just As Bad As Physical

Created: 23 May, 2014
Updated: 14 October, 2022
3 min read

For the 46.5 million Americans living below the poverty line, 16 million of which are children, life has become a consistent struggle. This struggle does not simply begin and end with monetary concerns, but in fact surrounds both a physical and mental exertion of the individual.

Using the national U.S. census and NCCP, researchers found that in 2013, the poverty line rested at $11,490, a number which equates an individual working full time while only making $5.00 – far below the national minimum wage.

Though many states that top the list of having the highest percentage of residents living below the poverty line may not come as a surprise, some states, which may once have thrived on job creation, have now thus risen into the highest percentages. Is your state among the worst?

California, once a booming industry state, now houses one of the largest percentages of residents living in poverty. Joining Calif. in the '16%+' group include Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and last but not least, Florida.

Only slightly tailing behind, ranging in the '13-15.9%' range, we find Washington, Montana, Idaho, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New York, Hawaii, Maine, and Delaware.

Only 5 states in the U.S. have managed to keep their poverty rate under 11 percent. These states include Alaska, Maryland, New Jersey, Connecticut, and New Hampshire.

It’s not hard to wrap one’s head around the physical toll living in poverty can take on an individual, yet many may not realize that the mental toll may also be spinning such people into deeper insufficiencies. Recent studies suggest that the mental strain undertaken by the poor far surpasses previously expected amounts.

This strain can easily affect one’s ability to succeed in school and/or work, and can even influence one's ability to pay bills on time. Specifically, poverty affects such cognitive functions as decision-making, memory, focus, patience and even awareness. The scientific reasoning for these shortcomings is linked to the brain’s finite ability. Thus the limited brainpower resulting from poverty infringes on the ability of such people to complete everyday tasks.

The problem with many people’s understanding of the stress of poverty is that they neglect to include the added stress that most U.S. adults face on a daily basis. Such triggers include work, money, health, relationships, poor nutrition, media overload, and sleep deprivation. In fact, 76 percent of U.S. adults correlate work and money to their top stress indicators.

While 3 in 4 average adults claim to experience physical effects caused by stress, i.e. headaches (44%), dizziness (13%), teeth grinding (17%), change in appetite (23%), lack of energy (45%), change in sex drive (15%), fatigue (51%), upset stomach (50%), these effects are increased in adults whose income falls below the poverty line.

The rarely talked about psychological effects of poverty include feeling as though one could cry (35%), feeling nervous (45%), and irritability (30%). Thus, this leaves millions of families who fall below the poverty line left in both a deteriorating physical state and a diminishing mental capacity as the psychological effects of poverty revert in a downward spiral.

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Source: Best Psychology Degrees

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