Researchers Link Social Ills to Deaths


Extreme poverty is known to cause poor health. In a recent study, researchers have managed to calculate the number of deaths caused by poverty. They also argue that social ills can cause death in much the same way health factors like smoking or obesity do.

Six Social Ills
This research article was published last month in The American Journal of Public Health. It reveals that scientists evaluated the effects of six social factors and the number of deaths each one causes. The six social ills are low income, low education, racial segregation, low social support, income differential and an area’s poverty level.

Study Methodology
The scientists arrived at the deaths caused by each social ill by reviewing earlier research studies on the subjects and combining the data. After analyzing the accumulated data, scientists arrived at the deaths caused due to living with a particular social disadvantage.

Social Disadvantages Too can Cause Death
The researchers say death cannot be attributed to a one single cause, because there may be several factors. But, they aver that their research proves that social disadvantages are as much likely to cause death as bad habits like smoking or binge eating.

Criteria for Social Disadvantage
The researchers defined social disadvantages using various criteria. Low education means not having a high school diploma. Poverty is defined as having a household income less than $10,000. Racial segregation was labeled if more than 25% of an area’s population were blacks.

Deaths Due to Social Ills
In the year 2000, the research found that racial segregation caused 176,000 deaths, and individual poverty caused 133,000 deaths. These are substantial numbers. In comparison, about 119,000 Americans die annually because of accidents, and 156,000 due to lung cancer.

Link Between Poverty and Death
Though social factors cannot be compared with accidents or diseases, research has definitively established the link between social ills such as poverty and death due to heart disease. Poverty for example means poorer access to medical screening and quality health care. Poor people are more vulnerable to stresses caused by heart disease and more likely to engage in damaging behavior. The researchers say this is why poverty should be considered a viable cause of death as much as smoking or obesity.

Social Ills Need to be Addressed
About 400,000 smokers die each year because of their deadly habit. Similarly, low education takes an annual toll of 245,000 Americans, the researchers reveal. Health officials say this research is an eye-opener. They say since this study reveals that income inequality and poverty cause about 291,000 deaths each year, these social ills matter and need to be addressed as much as health killers like obesity or heart attack.

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