Why some kids beat the poor health and depression of poverty

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Poverty leads to poor health and depression, but not for some

Poverty is bad for health, both physical and mental. Poor people are more likely to have diabetes, heart disease, cancer, depression and anxiety. They also have lower life expectancy. Furthermore, children who grow up poor are more likely to have health problems continuing the cycle.

Still, many children break that cycle. Edith Chen asked the question, “Who are these bright spots who, despite a lot of adversity, make it through and do well?” She and her colleague Gregory Miller of the University of British Columbia found a reason, a strategy they call “shift and persist”.

Stress increases the risk of developing chronic diseases. Poor children have a less predictable environment. Parents have multiple jobs, irregular schedules and less time with their children. Poor children are statistically more likely to experience violence. One study showed that 50% of low income youth witness a murder in their lifetime.

This is where “shift-and-persist” enters as an effective life skill. “Shift” refers to reappraising things that are stressful, looking for the silver lining. “You think, ‘I wouldn’t choose this, but maybe it’s an opportunity to end up in a better job down the line,’” Chen explain. This is a helpful self-regulation.

The second part “persist” has to do with staying positive for the long haul. Chen explained that some kids can hold out and find hope in a broader meaning of life. They manage to see a bigger picture and see themselves contributing to that big picture.

Chen hopes role models can be developed to show kids “shift and persist” helping children to reappraise their stress and think positively about future possibilities.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Association for Psychological Science

photo by James Emery

 
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