EFFECTS OF LOW INCOME ON BRAIN AND MENTAL HEALTH

(These thoughts are purely the blunt, no nonsense personal opinions of the author about financial fairness and discrimination and are not intended to provide personal or financial advice – financialfairnessforsingles.ca).

Comment from blog author:  this blog post includes two articles regarding the effects that low income can have on young individuals and low income persons.  While it is entirely appropriate to provide government assistance to parents with children, more attention needs to be paid to singles and millennials particularly after they leave home and before marriage.

Shocking statistics show that in one of the richest provinces (Alberta) there were in January 2014, 33,000 Alberta Income Support program (excluding AISH) recipients of all ages.  Alberta Income Support program in January, 2017, had 54,374 recipients and in January, 2018, 57,003 recipients.  Makeup of claimants in 2017 and 2018 include individuals 69%, lone-parent families 24%, couples with children 5%, and couples alone 3%.  Totals do not say how many are turned away and do not include those who on verge of poverty.

 

UNPREDICTABLE EMPLOYMENT MAY BE BAD FOR BRAIN HEALTH by Lisa Rapaport, October10, 2019 (unpredictable-income)

(Reuters Health) – Young adults who don’t earn the same amount of money from year to year, or who weather substantial pay cuts, do worse on brain health assessments in midlife compared to those with steady income, a recent study suggests.

Researchers collected income data over two decades for 3,287 adults, starting in 1990 when they were 23 to 35 years old. They assessed income volatility based on how much earnings rose or fell from one year to the next, and also tallied how many times participants’ income dropped by at least 25%.

People who experienced greater income volatility and more pay cuts had worse scores for processing speed and executive functioning in cognitive tests in 2010. Brain scans that year also showed reduced connective white matter and worse structural integrity for people who experienced more income volatility and pay cuts.

“Overall, income volatility and unfavorable socioeconomic conditions may increase exposure to several risk factors of poor brain health,” said Adina Zeki Al Hazzouri, a researcher at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York City.

“Individuals who experience important income fluctuations may be more at risk for cardiovascular risk factors, depression or perceived stress, which are in turn associated with poor cognitive health,” Zeki Al Hazzouri said by email. “In addition, they may have lower access to high-quality healthcare, which may result in worse management of these risk factors, and potentiate their impact on brain health.”

Changes in cognitive test scores and brain scans didn’t appear to differ when researchers only looked at participants with the most education.

Almost half of the participants, 1,780 people, didn’t have any income drops of 25% or more during the study period. People in this group had average annual income of US$39,681.

Another 1,108 people experienced one major income decline during the study period, and this group had average annual income of US$32,253. And 399 individuals with average annual income of US$33,326 experienced two or more substantial income reductions.

Having multiple income drops appeared worse for brain health than having a single large drop during the study period.

The study wasn’t designed to prove whether earnings volatility directly impacts brain health.

However, economic struggles have been associated with unhealthy habits like smoking, drinking and inactivity that could in turn contribute to worse brain health, poor cognitive function and dementia, the study team writes in Neurology.

“It’s well established that lower socioeconomic status is linked with poorer health,” said Dr. Joel Salinas, an associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston who wrote an editorial accompanying the study.

“Factors like income volatility are especially significant when a recession looms,” Salinas said by email. “Times of individual and societal instability can have tremendous and enduring consequences – far beyond the economic, extending into the long term potential for entire communities to thrive.  SOURCE: https://bit.ly/35pNssA and https://bit.ly/2IERiV4 Neurology, online October 2, 2019.

FINANCIAL AND MENTAL HEALTH PRESSURES MOUNT ON STUDENTS by Joel Schlesinger (copied from written format, unable to find link)

It is supposed to be a time of learning, leading to a brighter future: a good career that contributes to society’s betterment while enriching their own lives.

Yet many Alberta post-secondary students are struggling to keep up with the costs of education and living.

And it’s affecting their mental health.

That’s the key message from student leaders at three of the largest post-secondary institutions in the province who were asked what are the biggest challenges facing students today.

And all indicated rising costs and mental health top the list.

“Not every student faces the same challenges, but there are very common threads that tie together their experience,” says Jessica Revington, president of the University of Calgary Students’ Union.

“Overall, I would say the costs of education and a lack of support are two big buckets many challenges fall into.”

Indeed, the difficulty paying for rising tuition, managing debt-loads and the growing cost of living are wearing on students, who are increasingly seeking support.

“Right now  there are challenges in connecting students to these supports,” Revington says.  “So while we may be talking about stress, we’re not providing supports for students to help them manage it in healthy ways.”

These challenges are echoed by the University of Alberta Students’ Union president Akanksha Bhatnagar.

“Research has shown a lot of the alarming rates of depression, anxiety and loneliness,” she says.

Another concern is sexual violence on campus, she adds.  “It’s hard to paint a completely picture of sexual violence, but we know that incidence of on-campus sexual violence is a top concern for students.”

The same holds true with other troubling issues including suicide, food bank use and even homelessness.

“At  the University of Alberta, student homelessness and food insecurity disproportionately impacts certain demographics on campuses such as LGBTQ2S+ and international students,” she says.

“Our campus food bank has seen a huge increase in clients, and we all believe our students shouldn’t have to worry about where their next meal is going to come from, or having a safe place to go home to at night.”

It’s not just university students who are under stress.  Those attending polytechnic and colleges in the province are also experiencing mental health challenges.

“Post-secondary education is a huge change in the lives for lots of students,” says Ryan Morstad, president of the SAIT Students’ Association.  “You may go to school in a new city; you have less structure with your classes; you’re meeting new friends, and you have to manage yourself and your budget.”

All  those can be in and of themselves stressful.  Then add in the fact that incidence of onset of mental illness is highest among 18- to 25-year olds,and it’s  easy to see why students might struggle without adequate support, he says.

Of course, managing costs of education are fuel to this fire.

“It’s just a whole bunch of things that are hitting you at the same time,” Morstad adds.

That just doesn’t include tuition.  It’s textbook costs, too – a top concern for SAIT students.  Indeed, American data suggest textbook costs increased by more than 800 per cent between 1978 and 2013.

“We find that students – if they buy all the textbooks for their courses – spend about $1,000 per semester”

What’s more, a recent study called the Hungry for Knowledge written by Meal Exchange, a national charity addressing food insecurity, found 50 per cent of surveyed students reported going without buying healthy food to pay for textbooks among other expenses.

“This is not something people like to talk about,”: Bhatnagar says, adding that the struggle students face isn’t an isolated problem.  “Students are having the same issues no matter what university or college they attend.”

(This blog is of a general nature about financial discrimination of individuals/singles.  It is not intended to provide personal or financial advice).