Monday, June 5, 2017

Health and Other Things

From Sarah Kliff's article on pain treatment at Vox, this little tidbit about the dead-end town of Williamson, West Virginia:
Nationally, 10.1 percent of Americans rate their health as “fair” or “poor.” In Mingo County, where Williamson is, that figure stands at 38.9 percent.
Now I ask you, what is that about? People in Mingo County are a little older than average, but not enough to explain such a big discrepancy.

The only explanation I can think of is cultural. It has to be some combination of pessimistic self-reporting and health actually being depressed by poverty and lack of faith in the future.

I can imagine that more people in places like Mingo County tell pollsters that their health is poor because that's just how people talk. If you live in Silicon Valley your neighbors are all talking about their workout routines and their new juicers and their cool jobs, so it seems downright shameful to admit to poor health. But in Mingo County your neighbors are all talking about their health problems and how bad things look in general, so there is no shame in telling strangers about your lumbago. Or anyway I can see something like this being a factor.

But there are other ways of measuring health than by surveys, and they all show that in America poor people are a lot sicker than rich people. Some of the causality runs the other way, that is, people are poor because they are sick; good mental health is the main thing you need to be economically successful, and good physical health helps a lot. But that doesn't tell the whole story. However you look at the data it seems that being poor and especially having no hope that you will ever stop being poor grinds people down and ruins their health. It's a sad, sad story and one of the most important reasons to fight poverty no matter what it costs.

1 comment:

David said...

Diet, drugs, mining work, and a mining environment, may also be factors.