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Many teens experience poor health as a result of social class discrimination. A new study from Dr. Thomas Fuller-Rowell of the University of Wisconsin-Madison explores the findings.
Researchers and health professionals have long known of a link between poverty and poor health. Many reasons have been explored. This is the first study to look at the impact of class discrimination on health
“The findings of our study suggest that the stress caused by social-class discrimination may be an important factor in explaining the negative influence of poverty on health. Experiences of discrimination are often subtle rather than blatant, and the exact reason for unfair treatment is often not clear to the victim,” explained Fuller-Rowell.
Participants in the study were all 17 years old and involved in other poverty based studies at Cornell. The majority were white. They were asked to respond to questions like “How often do people treat you differently because of your background?” They also volunteered blood and urine samples which measured stress related hormones like epinephrine, cortisol and norepinephrine.
In poorer teens who suffered a lot of perceived discrimination, their measurable stress levels were higher and their health was poorer. “Our findings suggest that the stigma associated with poverty can lead to class discrimination, which, overtime, can impact an individual’s health,” said Fuller-Rowell.
Fuller-Rowell suggested that Americans need to get better at recognizing, acknowledging, and discussing these subtle types of discrimination. “Americans tend not to be comfortable talking about social class, because this is supposed to be a class-less country. But in terms of mitigating the effects of class discrimination, talking about it in schools and in the media is a beginning.”
Source: MedicalNewsToday, Psychological Science
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