Category Archives: Social Determinants of Health

Nature News: Stress of growing up poor can hurt brain development

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This is a very disturbing though not surprising article from Nature News.

http://www.nature.com/news/poverty-shrinks-brains-from-birth-1.17227?WT.mc_id=FBK_NatureNews

“The stress of growing up poor can hurt a child’s brain development starting before birth, research suggests — and even very small differences in income can have major effects on the brain.

“Researchers have long suspected that children’s behaviour and cognitive abilities are linked to their socioeconomic status, particularly for those who are very poor. The reasons have never been clear, although stressful home environments, poor nutrition, exposure to industrial chemicals such as lead and lack of access to good education are often cited as possible factors..

” In children from the poorest families, income disparities of a few thousand dollars were associated with major differences in brain structure, particularly in areas associated with language and decision-making skills. Children’s scores on tests measuring cognitive skills, such as reading and memory ability, also declined with parental income.”

Thankfully, the article ends on a hopeful note.

“Still, the researchers are hopeful that the impacts could be reversible through interventions such as providing better child care and nutrition. Research in humans and in other animals suggests that is the case: a study in Mexico, for instance, showed that supplementing poor families’ income improved their children’s cognitive and language skills within 18 months2.

“It’s important for the message not to be that if you’re poor your brain is smaller and will be smaller forever,” Sowell says.