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How Does Poverty Affect People’s Health and Well-Being? Essay

The health and well-being of a person depends on lots of different circumstances. It is about finding a good work / life balance and feeling healthy in body as well as mind. It is about feeling good in what you do and who you are as a person, it is about achieving personal goals and accomplishing your hopes and dreams.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines Health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”

A person has to be able to enjoy the things they do socially and physically, to be able to develop and sustain good relationships, whether personal or social, which makes them feel part of something and connected to others such as friends, family, colleagues and neighbours. They have to feel in control of their own lives and have a sense of belonging and meaning to their existence. This gives purpose for an enjoyable life and a good feeling about life in general.

Ronald Labonte states that there are three sets of factors to health and well-being. They are Physical, Mental and Social. He shows how these are interconnected on his model of health and well-being. It shows the various outcomes from the different combinations and in what areas. Well-being can be achieved by doing things that we enjoy, developing good relationships with others, feeling good about our life and living conditions and having energy to enjoy it all. It is about having meaning and purpose to our lives.

However, whole communities can be affected by good or bad health. This can be dependent on the environment and area they live in as well as their current situation and what they do. Living in an area which has a high level of deprivation can have a big impact on a persons well being and eventually it can take its toll on their health. Living in a neglected neighbourhood can change a persons characteristics as well as their behaviour. Low income, poor housing and no support can all contribute to poor health.

A person’s income and education level can have an impact on their health and well-being. If a person is on low income then they may not be able to afford to live anywhere else. They may not be able to afford to keep their children in school.

Relationships with your family and friends can also affect the way you feel and can have an impact on your well-being and mental health and this could be positive or negative depending on the relationship. If for example you live in an area where you have no support from family or friends you may feel isolated and alone and if the neighbourhood is not a safe one you may be afraid to go out therefore never getting to meet new people or get the relevant help you need. People who live in poverty are usually claiming state benefits to survive.

Poverty is defined in two ways, Absolute and Relative.

Absolute poverty has been defined as “a minimum subsistence level based on essentials for survival” These are the basic human needs, food, water, clothes, sanitation, health, shelter, education and information.

Relative poverty describes your current standard of living. It is “having an income which is less then 60% of the national average Relative poverty is measured on the fluctuations in the “average” income rather then a fixed rate making it difficult to measure.

Living on a low income especially with a family to raise is hard work and very stressful. This can cause tension and arguments in the family which could eventually lead to the breakdown of the family unit and create even further issues. Trying to provide for children in regards to material things such as mobile phones, televisions, iPods, laptop etc can be emotionally and physically draining. It can be difficult trying to keep up with the moving trends while still trying to put food on the table and keep your children happy.

Children living in poverty may be at a higher risk of being bullied at school for not having the right shoes and latest fashions. This could cause major mental and emotional issues for the child which they could end up carrying into adulthood. They may stop performing well at school and eventually leave without any qualifications which could lead to difficulties in gaining employment. This will then re-enforce their low self esteem and self worth and perhaps they will fall into a life of crime or become addicted to drugs and alcohol. Also due to lack of education and resources they could become promiscuous and young girls may end up pregnant. They perhaps will not stay together with the father of the child and the girl will end up a lone parent claiming benefits.

Poor diet can have a big impact on a person health. People may not be able to afford to purchase food that is good for them, like fresh fruit and fresh vegetables. They may have to buy cheaper alternatives which will not have the same nutritional value as fresh produce and they end up with a higher risk of suffering health issues and dying young.

Due to a poor diet some pregnant woman can end up having babies that are under weight. These children may then suffer long term health issues leading all the way into adult hood reducing the amount of time that they will actually live. They are at a higher risk of developing physical conditions such as hearing and sight defects.

Mental health is a main cause for concern in low income areas and money worries can lead to anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, insomnia and perhaps even suicide. Having little or no money limits the activities you can do and prevents people from taking part in leisurely pursuits like taking holidays or being able to visit family and friends in a different location. This can eventually take its toll on your mood and outlook on life.

Living in poverty can also lead to social exclusion. If people are socially excluded they lack opportunities and resources. The government states that: “social exclusion happens when people or places suffer from a series of problems such as unemployment, discrimination, poor skills, low incomes, poor housing, high crime, ill health and family breakdown”

People can sometimes feel trapped in their own neighbourhoods even more so if that neighbourhood has a bad reputation and you’re trying to find employment. Having to say where you live could potentially reduce your chances of securing a job. Employers may not want to hire someone from a bad neighbourhood.

Living in an area with poor housing conditions or lack of facilities can have an impact on a person’s state of mind. Social problems may be an issue, perhaps there is a high level of crime in the area, underage drinking could be rife, children may have no where safe to play and parents from other neighbourhoods may not want their children mixing with children from a neighbourhood with a bad reputation. There may not be any local facilities near by like shops, medical centre, leisure areas etc

From reading chapter 7 there are many examples of how poverty affects people and mainly I feel that it is the women in the community that feel the effect more. Always having to budget before going shopping, knowing precisely what they need so that they have enough money when it comes to paying for it. Not being able to do any leisure pursuits or do fun things like taking a trip to the cinema can have a negative impact on the family as a whole therefore perhaps relationships within the family break down.

Many women go without so that there will be more for their children and husband. No wonder these women end up depressed about there current situation, It must be hard work always worrying about money and whether their will be enough to feed the family. It seems like a relentless situation. It must cause social and mental anxiety for a person therefore creating negative affects. These negative feelings and emotions can lead to illnesses such as fatigue, stress, high blood pressure, weight gain or loss, headaches, insomnia, loss of appetite etc. You may also feel embarrassed, disrespected and resentful. You may also feel worthlessness at times about the whole situation.

Living in poverty can have a demoralising effect on your health and well-being. Not eating proper healthy food, not getting the right treatment for health issues, drinking and smoking to excess, these are just some things that will have a negative effect on your life and will reduce it considerably. If you can remove some barriers and try to make good of things and turn all the negatives into positives, then you can slowly start to change the outlook on your life and over time improve your health and well-being.

Community programme’s like Thornhill Plus You programme can have a really positive effect on the neighbourhood and the people who live in it. Living in a good positive health neighbourhood will have an impact on the people who live there. In the Ronald Labonte model of health and well-being, living conditions and control over our lives are contributing factors to our well-being.


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