How Low Income Affects Health and Well-being

Connection Between Health Outcomes and Income 

how low income affects health and well-being

Did you know that one-third (36%) of lower-income U.S. adults have two or more chronic conditions?

In addition, a study from The Commonwealth Fund reported that half of U.S. adults with lower income skip needed care because of costs. Fifty percent reported skipping doctor visits, recommended tests, treatments, follow-up care, or prescription medications in the past year because of the cost. Access to Health is one of our four focus areas because it is a serious need for low-income families. Learn more about how low income affects health and well-being of individuals in Wayne and Union counties.

People around us struggle with their health, and many external factors contribute to overall health. Individuals with low income, especially those below the poverty line, struggle daily with their physical and mental health. Many clinical, environmental and behavioral factors come into play when discussing poverty and health.   

Our goal in this blog is to make complicated subjects easier to understand. Read on to learn more about the contributing factors of health inequity and the effect on our community. 

Poverty is a Contributor to Disease 

As income inequality continues to prevail in the United States and so do the disparities in health outcomes. The United States has one of the world’s most significant income-based health disparities. Individuals with lower incomes are four times more likely to report being in poor health.   

According to an article by Health Affairs, “Economic inequality is increasingly linked to disparities in life expectancy across the income distribution, and these disparities seem to be growing over time. In the 1970s, a sixty-year-old man in the top half of the income distribution could expect to live 1.2 years longer than a man in the bottom half. By the turn of the century, he could expect to live 5.8 years longer.”  

Bringing awareness to how low income affects health and well-being does not just mean citing data from the entire U.S. but showing data from our community. In Wayne County, 12% of individuals lack health insurance, and life expectancy is four years under the national average. Additionally, 15% of Wayne County and 10% of individuals in Union County are under the poverty line. Statistics show that even individuals in our community are struggling with health and income disparities. 

how low income affects health and well-being

Factors that Influence Health and Income 

The data shows that low income contributes to poor health, but poor health can contribute to lower income creating a harsh cycle. Have you ever heard about the health poverty trap? In layman’s terms, it is a continuous loop in which many people find themselves. 

In the introduction, we mentioned three factors that influence income and health. Clinical influences include lack of insurance which restricts access to new medicines and technology. In addition, many low-paying or part-time jobs do not offer health benefits. Low-income individuals with and without insurance struggle to afford preventive care visits such as dental cleanings, health screenings and yearly doctor’s visits. Without preventive care, individuals’ health can decline quickly.  

Environmental and behavioral factors are closely intertwined and contribute to one another. Behavioral factors are things such as individuals who live below the poverty line have higher rates of smoking, obesity, substance use and low levels of physical activity. Environmental factors could be structural barriers such as living in a food desert, with less access to green spaces, which contribute to behavior factors like obesity and low level of activity. These are only a couple of examples of how low income affects health and well-being, but health disparities are not only exacerbated by income. 

The Intersection of Income, Race, Gender and Health 

Health disparities are the result of broader inequities in our society. When income, race and health intersect, inequities in health and quality healthcare appear. A great analogy we recently learned was the groundwater metaphor. This metaphor is a practice used to help individuals understand “the reality that we live in a racially structured society, and that is what causes racial inequity.” It is the idea that once groundwater is contaminated, it touches all the water around it. The original groundwater makes its way into all types of water like pond, tap and river water.   

One concerning example is the maternal mortality rate of Black women in Indiana and the United States. In 2018, the Maternal Mortality Review Committee reported that Black women accounted for 18% of maternal deaths despite making up 13% of births. In the U.S., Black women are 3.5 more likely to die during childbirth than white women.   

Many factors contribute to this increased risk for Black mothers, but it all goes back to structural racism. Like the groundwater metaphor, people of color face inequity in every part of their lives, including healthcare. This inequity is compounded by the effects of poverty. Without change, inequity and health disparities will continue to grow. This is only one example of how low income affects health and well-being. 

how low income affects health and well-being

Learn More About United Way of Whitewater Valley 

Now that you know how low income affects health and well-being of individuals in Wayne and Union County and join us in our fight for the health, education and financial stability of everyone in Wayne and Union counties by donating today. There is a lot of work to be done which means we need your help to make positive changes in our community.   

Get to know more about our program partners working in our four focus areas: childhood success, youth success, economic mobility, and access to health. Read more about their stories here, or sign up for our newsletter to learn more about what we do at United Way of Whitewater Valley.