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Women's Health

Income Inequality and its Impact on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE)

Income Inequality and its Impact on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE)

Income inequality continues to rise throughout the country. This issue is perhaps best summed up by the phrase; the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer. 

 

Too many people at the lower end of the socio-economic ladder are deprived of good working wages. In comparison, the wealthiest people in the country continue to make more and more money. While the prominent executives are taking home huge bonuses, the people down at the bottom are struggling to get by on minimum wage. 

 

Naturally, this creates a troubling situation in the U.S. Income inequality has significant implications on the lives of millions of people. In this post, we look to explore some of the critical areas that are most impacted by the growing income inequality. 

An increase in ACEs

ACEs are adverse childhood experiences, which primarily refers to any stressful or damaging events that happen during childhood, thus can affect health and development across the life course (Halfon, Larson, Son, Lu, & Bethell, 2017). Unfortunately, this can include domestic violence, children being abandoned by parents, a parent being imprisoned, or growing up in an uncertain home environment that’s plagued by arguments or drug abuse problems. 

Is the Multi-Billion Dollar Wellness Industry Worth the Money?

Is the Multi-Billion Dollar Wellness Industry Worth the Money?

We all know how important health and wellness are, and there is an increasing focus on becoming healthier, more balanced, and ultimately, happier. It’s big business too, with the global wellness industry now valued at a huge $3.72 trillion and accounts for approximately five per cent of the global economic output[1]. It seems that there are new trends and fads coming out every day, from spin classes and yoga to organic food, special drinks, guided meditation classes, and more. There is even a drive to feed our pets clean, healthy, natural food[2].  With the wellness industry now being “one of the world’s fastest, most resilient markets,”[3]outranking the pharmaceutical industry several times over, it’s easy to wonder, is it worth it? And if it is, is it something that is exclusively for high-earners and not for those on a budget?

 

Wellness trends

Wellness can be defined as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing,”[4]and it’s definitely something that is at the forefront of many people’s thoughts. Searches for ‘self-care’ on Google have increased by 25% in the last year[5], and people are paying for more and more wellness products and services. There are even wellness festivals popping up around the world. The Womad festival, for example, dedicates two acres of land to spa and wellness areas, including meditation led by Buddhist monks and shamanic healing. Likewise, Soul Circus in the UK focuses on wellness, with tickets costs around $260. Founder Ella Wroath explains that she “wanted to create a balanced event that left you feeling rejuvenated and inspired, rather than hungover and unhealthy”[6]

How Childhood Adversity Affects Adult Health

How Childhood Adversity Affects Adult Health

Everything that happens in our lives affects us; events can change us for better or worse, and some things affect us more than others. But did you know that suffering childhood adversity, such as extreme poverty, abuse, neglect, or a sick or alcoholic parent, can affect you right through your life? And it’s not just a mental health issue either. Experiencing toxic stress and adverse conditions as a child can actually alter your physiological make up and cause life-threatening physical diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. 

The correlation between childhood adversity and later ill health was first discussed in a 1995 study by physicians Vincent Felitti and Robert Anda[1], and since then, the evidence has been mounting. Now, there can be little doubt that childhood adversity can and does affect later adult health. In that initial study, Felitti and Anda examined the childhood and adolescent histories of 17,000 people, looking for what they termed ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences), or chronic, unpredictable, and stress-inducing life events[2]. Of those they studied, a huge two thirds had suffered at least one ACE and 90% of those two thirds had experienced more than one[3]. They then looked at the correlation between the patients’ ACE score and their health – and the results were shocking. 

Is Overpopulation Still a Problem?

Is Overpopulation Still a Problem?

Overpopulation has been a topic of discussion for centuries. From Plato and Aristotle to modern day scientists and philosophers, the questions of population control – whether we need to impose controls and what those controls should be – have been hotly debated. The world’s population currently stands at approximately 7.6 billion people and every day, around 360,000 babies are born. That’s roughly 15,000 new mouths to feed every single hour. On the flip side, only around 150,000 people die each day[1]. The disparity is obvious and at this rate, population growth is inevitable, but is it a problem? Fifty years after Paul Erhlich terrified the world with his vision of starvation and death in his book The Population Bomb, do we still need to worry about the effects of overpopulation?

From Before Christ Onwards

As far back as the fourth century BC, overpopulation has been a concern. Plato and Aristotle recommended instilling strict birth controls to ensure that the population didn’t rise above 200 million people worldwide[2]– a stark contrast to today’s 7.6 billion! Later, Thomas Malthus famously warned about growing population in 1798, and by 1968, Paul Erhlich argued that it was too late – we’d surpassed a sustainable level and control was no longer an option. Instead, he argued, we needed to actively reduce the population through enforced, compulsory methods. Skip forward to 2018, however, and the fiery conversations about overpopulation have been somewhat dampened. The urgency around reducing the birth rate or even reducing the population itself seems to have fizzled out. Does that mean that it’s no longer a problem, though, or have we simply become apathetic? 

 

 

Are We Failing Our Elders?  The Rise of Senior Poverty in the US

Are We Failing Our Elders? The Rise of Senior Poverty in the US

One in every six elderly Americans now live below the federal poverty line, and over half of all ‘baby boomers’ have reported a deterioration in their quality of life over the past few years[1]. 21 per cent of married couples and 43 per cent of single people over the age of 65 depend on Social Security for a massive 90 per cent of their income, and almost 62% of households headed by someone over the age of 60 are in debt[2]. 2.9 million older households in the US suffer from food insecurity[3], and between 1991 and 2007, the number of 65- to 74-year-olds applying for bankruptcy increased by a huge 178%[4].

Now, “25 million Americans aged 60 and above are economically insecure”[5], leaving them to struggle with housing, rising healthcare costs, nutrition, transportation, and savings. To make matters worse, they are often left isolated and alone, living in suburbs and surrounded by other elderly people, whose families have grown and flown the nest[6]

An Aging Labor Force – Working Until You Drop

With the increasing financial difficulties faced by the older population, many continue working long after the traditional retirement age, with 40% of ‘baby boomers’ claiming that they plan to “work until they drop”[7]. Of course, for some, this is a choice – a desire to continue in their current roles or even explore alternative career options, but for too many it’s a financial necessity. In the year 2,000, 4 million senior citizens continued to work after retirement age, but by 2017 that number had jumped to 9 million – the highest senior employment rate in 55 years[8]! In fact, it’s the highest senior employment rate since before retirees earned the right to healthcare and Social Security benefits in the 1960s.

To put further strain on older employees, the workforce is changing. Technology is becoming more and more prevalent, and senior employees are left to learn new skills or change the way they work[9]. This leaves some forced out of their jobs and as a result, many sell their properties, give up their lifestyles, and travel the country in search of seasonal work[10]. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that by the year 2022, workers aged 55 and above will make up a huge 25% of the labor force[11] and it doesn’t look like things are going to get any better any time soon. We’re failing our elders, and we need to do something about it.

The Rise of Unassisted Childbirth

The Rise of Unassisted Childbirth

Pregnancy and childbirth are every day occurrences, and the medical care that mothers and their new-borns receive gets better and better all the time. Despite that, more and more people are opting for an unassisted childbirth, which can range from a homebirth with no medical practitioner present to a complete separation from the medical world, including no doctors, no midwives, no pregnancy check-ups, and no scans. It’s still relatively rare, but since the mid-1990s, the popularity of unassisted childbirth has been on the rise and it’s now at its highest since 1975[1]. Those who choose an unassisted birth, however, face the backlash of medical organisations all around the world who warn of the dangers of shunning medical advice and assistance. So why are more people opting for it, and is it really as dangerous as medical organisations claim it to be?

 

What is unassisted childbirth and why are people opting for it?

It’s worth noting that unassisted childbirth is different to a homebirth which includes an attending medical practitioner, be it a doctor, nurse, or midwife. Unassisted births are more about ‘going back to nature’ and are usually attended by a non-medical birthing partner or family and close friends only[2]. Also called ‘freebirth’, as coined by Pavrati Baker[3], the notion of unassisted childbirth grew out of the Natural Childbirth movement fronted by, among others, Grantly Dick, that promoted the idea of childbirth without medical intervention and in particular, without anaesthesia[4]. Dr. Amos Grunebaum, the director of obstetrics at the New York Presbyterian Hospital and Weill Cornell Medical College explains that homebirths have risen in popularity by 79% in recent years, and of those 140,000 homebirths per year, approximately one third of them are unassisted[5].

The arguments that pro-unassisted childbirthers make are surprisingly simple. The medical system is negative and sterile, many say, and an unassisted pregnancy and birth is more exciting, more loving[6]. Women have been giving birth since the dawn of human existence and all this medical intervention is relatively recent occurrence, others argue. If women could do it before, why not now? After all, childbirth is not a medical emergency – it’s not an illness or disease or injury – so why is a hospital required[7]? Marilyn A Moran, a proponent of unassisted childbirth argues that childbirth is an inherently private and sexual matter[8] and Laura Kaplan Shanley argues that “birth is sexual and spiritual, magical and miraculous – but not when it’s managed, controlled, and manipulated by the medical establishment”[9]. Ultimately, then, the desire for unassisted childbirth arises from a disillusionment with the medical world, and a desire to stay as natural as possible.

 

Do Big Moms Make Big Babies?

Do Big Moms Make Big Babies?

There are a lot of stories and old wives’ tales surrounding pregnancy and birth, and each and every possible factor of having a baby is subject of discussion. The potential size of your baby is no different, and whether or not you’ll have a large baby is a question on many people’s lips. Thanks to recent research though, that question can now be answered – at least for some people. Studies show that mothers who are overweight or obese during pregnancy are much more likely to have big babies than smaller mothers.

A recent co-operative review study between universities in the UK looked at research involving more than 30,000 women of European ancestry and their babies. The studies examined the mother’s body mass index (BMI), blood sugar levels, and blood pressure as well as the weight of the resulting babies. The results, published in the Journal of American Medical Association, demonstrated that not only will larger moms have larger babies, but moms with high blood sugar levels (whether overweight or not) will also have bigger babies. Conversely, moms with high blood pressure will have smaller babies[1].

Big Babies

The size of the average baby is around 6-7 pounds[2], but the amount of babies being born at 9.9 pounds or more has increased over the last ten years[3]. These are known as LGA babies, or ‘large for gestational age’. The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology suggests that overweight moms are twice as likely to have an LGA baby and obese moms are three times as likely. What’s more, a study by the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research shows that women who gain 40 pounds or more actually during the pregnancy are also twice as likely to have LGA babies[4], even if they started out with a healthy BMI. So the statistics show that this increase in baby size is there, but the questions we’re left with are why are babies getting bigger? And why does it matter?

Bigger Babies

The fact that babies are getting bigger is not only due to the size of the mother, of course. One of the most obvious reasons that babies are getting bigger is that we are getting healthier in terms of pregnancy development. Mothers generally don’t smoke and drink during pregnancy any longer, for example, and these factors influence the resulting size of the baby. That however would only explain a small growth, rather than why babies are increasingly being born LGA.

Does Modern Life Cause Early-Onset Dementia?

Does Modern Life Cause Early-Onset Dementia?

     Dementia affects millions of people worldwide and in the US, there are presently an estimated five million people suffering from age-related dementia.  If you are in America and you are over the age of 85, you have a one in two chance of developing some sort of dementia[1].  It is the sixth leading cause of death[2].  In 2015, nearly one in five Medicare dollars will be spent on dementia and Alzheimer’s will cost $226 billion.  By 2050, that cost is expected to rise to $1.1 trillion[3].  It’s a terrifying fact. 

     Dementia is an umbrella term for disorders of mental processes caused by brain diseases or injury.  There are a number of different types of dementia but by far the most prevalent and most well-known is Alzheimer’s, which currently accounts for around 70% of all dementia diagnoses[4].  What’s worrying is that dementia diagnoses are increasing as the population ages, as are deaths from neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s.  What’s more worrying, though, is that dementia is affecting individuals at a younger and younger age. 

 Dementia and the Youth of Today

     Whilst previously, ‘early-onset dementia’ referred to people in their mid to late 60s, it is now starting to refer to people diagnosed as young as 30 and 40.  That’s a frightening concept, and whilst some claim that it’s the result of living longer and being better at curing other diseases (because, they claim, everybody has to die of something), Colin Pritchard of Bournemouth University in the UK is not so sure.  Pritchard and his team of researchers examined the mortality data from the World Health Organization and looked at the changing pattern of neurological deaths across 21 western countries, from as far back as 1979[5].  What they discovered was startling. 

 

Gender Expression and the Umbrella of Terms

Gender Expression and the Umbrella of Terms

     Transgender Americans and their struggles have become much more prominent in recent times. Last year, an article about the transgender rights movement focusing on actress Laverne Cox made the cover of TIME magazine;[i] and earlier this year, Caitlyn Jenner made her transition from male to female public, discussing it in interviews with 20/20[ii] and Vanity Fair.[iii] It would be fair to say, then, that there is a fair amount of public interest and discussion on the subject of transgender people and the life they experience at present. However, most of the public discourse appears to focus on a clearly delineated change: male to female, female to male. But for many people, gender can actually a much more complicated issue than simply being one or the other.

     People who do not feel they fit in the world as either male or female will often refer to themselves as “genderqueer” or “nonbinary” rather than simply transgender.[iv] Both are umbrella terms used to cover many ranges of gender expression. Some people will use both terms interchangeably; others feel they have slightly different connotations. For the purposes of this article, I will be using the term “nonbinary” to refer to this group of people, as it came into use for this purpose more recently than “genderqueer,” and I have seen it used more often in recent discussions of gender. The word nonbinary refers to the fact that these people consider themselves as living outside of the gender binary, which is to say, the male/female dichotomy we usually think of when describing a person’s gender.

 

Baby Boomers and the Elder Orphans That They Become

Baby Boomers and the Elder Orphans That They Become

The Aging Population

The population of America is aging.  We’re getting older.  That may seem self-evident but the problem is, it’s not just us.  Rather, the proportion of older people within our society is increasing and the ratio of young to old is shrinking.  In 2012, there were 43 million people aged 65 or over in the US, compared to just 35 million only ten years earlier, in 2002[1].  It is estimated that by 2029, 20% of the US population will be 65 years old or over, and that by 2056, the population of over-65s will bigger than that of the population of under 18s[2].  This, in part, is due to the so-called baby boom generation – those born in the fertile post-war years between 1946 and 1964.  The oldest of this group turned 65 back in 2011 and the youngest will probably need health care right through to 2060.  Many chose to remain child-free, which in itself isn’t a problem, but as the population continues to age, so difficulties begin to show. 

The Baby-Boomers and What They Become

The baby-boomers are now facing a new, and perhaps less spritely name: the elder orphans.  The term, coined recently, refers to older people who need care yet have no relatives either at all or living nearby.  Dr. Maria Torroella Carny, the chief of geriatric and palliative medicine at North Shore Health System, released a paper last week discussing just that issue.  These elderly people, who are often divorced or widowed and have no children, have no support system and are effectively ‘orphaned’ during a particularly vulnerable time in their lives.  She uses case studies to demonstrate just how serious this can be and how devastating the potential consequences are[3]

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