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Poverty and unemployment plays havoc with physical and mental health

A raft of studies are pointing to the worrying effects of poverty on worse physical and mental health. A new American study showed that being unemployed, even for a short period of time, increases the risk of heart attacks, and that having multiple job losses massively ups that risk. [1]. This was a big study, of over 13,000 Americans between 50 and 70 over nearly a decade. The risk of acute myocardial infarction after  job losses were very high, as great as seen in smoking, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

These processes seem to start very early. Rather frighteningly, a new study has even found that child poverty as well as stress as an adult, and living in poor neighbourhoods, can all have an effect on one’s gene expression, particularly in relation future immune responses. [2]. This study showed that people who had experienced childhood poverty had different gene methylation from those who hadn't, despite the fact everyone in the cohort had achieved the same socioeconomic status later in life. Early poverty left a detectable and lasting molecular mark on an individual's DNA.

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