Huffpost Healthy Living

Depression Disproportionately Affects Those In Poverty, Report Finds

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DEPRESSION POVERTY
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People who are poor have a greater risk of health problems, and a new report from Gallup and Healthways shows that depression, in particular, disproportionately affects those in this socioeconomic group.

Thirty-one percent of people in poverty reported having depression, while just 15.8 percent of those not in poverty reported having the condition, which is marked by dark moods, fatigue, thinking problems and insomnia.

"Depression could lead to poverty in some circumstances, poverty could lead to depression in others, or some third factor could be causing both," the researchers wrote in the report. "Regardless, it is clear that those in poverty are twice as likely as those who aren't to have ever been diagnosed with a potentially debilitating illness and one that could be impeding them from getting out of poverty."

The findings of the report are from the answers from 288,000 interviews with U.S. adults that were conducted in 2011.

Researchers also found that poverty seems linked to a higher risk of other health conditions, not just depression. Seventeen percent of people in this socioeconomic group have asthma, compared with 11 percent of people not in poverty; 31.8 percent of people in poverty are obese, compared with 26 percent of people not in poverty; nearly 15 percent of people in poverty have diabetes, compared with about 10 percent of those not in poverty; 5.8 percent of those in poverty have had a heart attack, compared with 3.8 percent of those not in poverty; and nearly 32 percent of people in poverty have high blood pressure, compared with 29 percent of those not in poverty, according to the report.

However, people not in poverty were slightly more likely to be diagnosed with cancer and high cholesterol. A little more than 6 percent of people in poverty had cancer, compared with 7.1 percent of those not in poverty, and 25 percent of those in poverty had high cholesterol, compared with 26 percent of those not in poverty.

"This could reflect the fact that those in poverty are less likely to have healthcare, and thus are less likely to have regular screening tests," researchers speculated. "Those in poverty may be less likely than those who are not in poverty to seek out the [preventive] care, cancer screenings, and blood tests that allow doctors to diagnose cancer or high cholesterol."

People who are poor are also more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking (33 percent of those in poverty smoke, compared with 19.9 percent of those not in poverty) and exercising at least a half-hour three times a week (48 percent of those in poverty do this, compared with 51.5 percent of those not in poverty); and eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables for at least four days a week (50.4 percent of people in poverty do this, compared with 56 percent of those not in poverty).

However, researchers found little difference between the percentage of people in poverty who said they ate healthy all day yesterday -- 65 percent -- and people not in poverty who said the same thing -- 64.9 percent.

The report also showed a difference between health care and healthy lifestyle accessibility of people in poverty and those not in poverty. More than 38 percent of people in poverty reported being uninsured, compared with 14.3 percent of those not in poverty, and 37.8 percent of those in poverty reported having trouble affording medicine or health care, compared with 16.5 percent of those not in poverty. And 62.1 percent of those in poverty said that they have a personal doctor, compared with 80.7 percent of those not in poverty.

And healthy lifestyle-wise, 83.7 percent of people in poverty said it's easy to afford fresh produce, compared with 91.7 percent of those not in poverty, and 81.7 percent of those in poverty said a safe place to exercise is easily accessible, compared with 92.1 percent of people not in poverty.
 
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