The effects of low income on health

orange family image by Zakharchenko from

Although heredity and personal choices indisputably play an important role in our overall health, a variety of factors associated with income level, such as inability to afford adequate medical care, also come into play.

This can become a self-perpetuating, multi-generational problem as health problems interfere with families' ability to learn, work and thrive.


According to Mark Winne's "Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty," low-income neighbourhoods have a nearly universal dearth of supermarkets providing fresh, healthy, affordable food. Instead, these "food deserts" tend to be provisioned by convenience stores stocked mainly with processed convenience foods. This lack of healthy food options is one reason why residents of low-income neighbourhoods have significantly higher rates of diet-related diseases such as diabetes and heart disease than people who live in more affluent areas.

Inadequate Health Care

According to the National Council of State Legislators, about 47 million Americans are uninsured. The rising cost of health insurance makes it virtually impossible for many low-income families to afford health insurance. As a result, uninsured individuals and families put off visits to the doctor, causing many treatable conditions to worsen. Many varieties of cancer are nonlethal in their early stages but lethal once they metastasise. Diabetes and risk factors for heart disease, as well, are considerably less dangerous if managed under the care of a physician. Uninsured individuals without adequate access to health care run the risk developing complications that could have been prevented through early detection and management.

Environmental Toxins

According to Bunyan Bryant of the Environmental Justice Initiative, sources of toxic waste are dispropotionately located closer to low-income communities and communities of colour and, as a result, there is a higher incidence of ailments associated with environmental toxins in these communities. Health problems linked with pollutants and toxic waste include multiple varieties of cancer, endocrine disruption disorders and respiratory difficulties.