Muscles tense, the heart races, and thoughts blur. These are just a few of the physical reactions involved in an extremely common response mechanism: stress. According to Hans Seyle stress is the “non-specific response of the body to any demand for change” (Stress). Stress is necessary to survival, and can motivate individuals to complete tasks. However, after a certain point stress becomes unhealthy and can cause feelings of strain or tension. The scientific community has established that chronic stress, stress that is frequent or long-lasting, can affect various parts of the body and can contribute to physical health problems. However, new research demonstrates that chronic stress can also affect one’s psychological processes and behavior by changing one’s brain chemistry. Everybody experiences acute stress, but certain groups of people are more prone to experience chronic stress than others. As an individual who identifies as being of moderately low socioeconomic status (SES), I know first-hand that poverty leads to increased amounts of stress in a person’s life. The chronic stress associated with poverty affects low SES individual’s nervous systems in ways that may prevent the majority from bettering their situations, thus perpetuating the cycle of poverty.
Poverty is stressful. The constant shortage of money, dangerous or unhealthy living situations, the perception of inferiority to those of higher SES, and the overall feeling of not being in control of one’s life all contribute to the higher chronic stress levels in low SES adults. Young children of low SES most likely are not aware of the money troubles plaguing their parents and older siblings. However, they will sense the tension in the household, which will in turn make them apprehensive and tense. Also, low SES children experience less mental stimulation through books, toys, and academic outings than other children because of the cost of these things. These children also often may be emotionally neglected because their parents are so concerned about work and money (Farah 14). The tension and neglect can cause stress responses in these children. Thus, all low SES individuals can suffer from chronic stress due to their socioeconomic status.