At some point in your life you may find yourself in a ditch. You may even live in a bad neighbourhood for a while and be rather poor. And it’s hard. However, it is not just hard on your mental state – it is also quite unhealthy. A new UCL-led study revealed that living in a deprived neighbourhood as a child may impact person’s long-term health. And the longer you stay in these areas, the worse the effects are.
Scientists reviewed 53 studies, involving such countries as the US, UK, Finland, Japan, Sweden and New Zealand. So, not really poor countries to say the least. The picture you see above is an actual poor neighbourhood – a favela in Latin America. And that’s important – living in a developed country does not protect you from effects of a deprived neighbourhood.
Studies involved in the review looked at data on where people live and the deprivation in that place over a time period of at least 15 years. Scientists found that the premature death was the most common poor health outcome for those living in these poor areas. Then there were issues of weight gain, addictions (smoking, excess alcohol and food consumption) and mental health issues. These health problems are long-term effects of living in deprived neighbourhoods – there is no particular point in life when the negative health effects of living in a deprived area manifest themselves. However, the longer you stay in these conditions, the bigger the effect they have on your health.
Dr Stephen Jivraj, lead author of the study, said: “One of the biggest questions that remains is to what extent neighbourhood deprivation in childhood causes poor health and well-being in later life and whether there are sensitive periods during the life course when deprivation is the most important because this has been underexplored”.
Scientists urge policy makers to start planning and making actions that would create opportunities for people to leave these deprived neighbourhoods. More importantly, governments should put more resources into these areas – they don’t have to remain poor indefinitely.