How does money influence health?

JRF-logoWhy do people in poverty tend to have poorer health?

This study looks at hundreds of theories to consider how income influences health. There is a graded association between money and health – increased income equates to better health. But the reasons are debated.

Researchers have reviewed theories from 272 wide-ranging papers, most of which examined the complex interactions between people’s income and their health throughout their lives.

Key points

This research identifies four main ways money affects people’s wellbeing:

  • Material: Money buys goods and services that improve health. The more money families have, the better the goods they can buy.
  • Psychosocial: Managing on a low income is stressful. Comparing oneself to others and feeling at the bottom of the social ladder can be distressing, which can lead to biochemical changes in the body, eventually causing ill health.
  • Behavioural: For various reasons, people on low incomes are more likely to adopt unhealthy behaviours – smoking and drinking, for example – while those on higher incomes are more able to afford healthier lifestyles.
  • Reverse causation (poor health leads to low income): Health may affect income by preventing people from taking paid employment. Childhood health may also affect educational outcomes, limiting job opportunities and potential earnings.

To open the full report please click here.

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Households below a Minimum Income Standard: 2008/9 to 2011/12

JRF-logoCommissioned research show almost 1 million more households in the UK are living below the minimum income standard, taking the figure to 4.7 million households at 2011/12.

Key points

  • The most severe increase has been among single people of working age, where the percentage unable to afford this minimum acceptable standard of living rose from 29 per cent to 36 per cent.
  • Among single people aged under 35 it rose even faster, from 29 to 42 per cent. This group also had an even greater increase in risk of having extremely low incomes, of less than half the minimum required.
  • Two in three people in lone parent families are now below Minimum Income Standard.
  • Pensioners and couples without children remain the most likely to have an adequate income.

The full report can be opened here.

Monitoring poverty and social exclusion 2013

JRF-logoAnalysis of the latest data on poverty in the UK.

This annual report by the New Policy Institute gives a comprehensive picture of poverty in the UK, featuring analysis of low income, unemployment, low pay, homelessness and ill health.

A focus on the geographical distribution of disadvantage reveals that national averages mask huge variations between areas in unemployment, educational achievement, and life expectancy.

The research shows that:

  • more than half of the 13 million people living in poverty in the UK in 2011/12 were in a working family;
  • while the labour market has shown signs of revival in the last year, the number of people in low-paid jobs has risen and average incomes have fallen – around five million people are paid below the living wage;
  • there is substantial movement in and out of work – 4.8 million different people have claimed Jobseeker’s Allowance in the last two years;
  • the proportion of pensioners in poverty is at its lowest for almost 30 years, but the proportion of working-age adults without children in poverty is the highest on record.

For the full report please click here, with a summary also available.

Tackling in-work poverty by supporting dual-earning families

JRF-logoHow can working families be helped out of poverty?

Research published this month reviewed trends in employment among couple families with children and considered policies and the wider context in four areas likely to affect their employment rate: family leave, childcare, the labour market, and the tax and benefit system.

Key Findings

  • The risk of poverty is much higher for children in couple families where only one parent works;
  • sole earner families account for a significant minority of poor families with children.
  • Many fathers have to work long hours, making it harder for them to get involved in family life and more difficult for mothers to work.

To enable more low-income families to have both partners in work, authors recommend allowing second earners to keep more of their wages before means-tested benefits are withdrawn; more publically-funded affordable childcare; and phasing in more generous family leave, including longer paternity leave.

Please click here to open the full report, with a summary also available.

Ten of the most important questions to ask about UK poverty

JRF-logoPoverty research must provide useful answers for policy and practice, says Chris Goulden.

To deal with entrenched problems of poverty in the UK, serious improvements need to be made to knowledge about the causes of poverty and the effectiveness of potential solutions.

As reported in the recent UBD full report (p.41):

One in four children in the District lives below the poverty line (households with less than 60% of average income) equating to 36,080 0-18 year olds. Bradford’s rate is more than the national average or West Yorkshire rate. A further third of the District’s children live in households that have low income plus material deprivation.

A two-day exercise led by a partnership between JRF and the Centre for Science and Policy at the University of Cambridge identified the most important unanswered and researchable questions about poverty.

Ten of the most important questions were:

  • What values, frames and narratives are associated with greater support for tackling poverty, and why?
  • How do images of people in poverty influence policy debates in different countries?
  • What are the most effective methods of increasing involvement and support for the education of children among their parents or guardians?
  • What explains variation in wages as a share of GDP internationally?
  • What is the nature and extent of poverty among those who do not or cannot access the safety net when they need it?
  • How could targeting and incentivising payment of the Living Wage make it more effective at reducing household poverty?
  • What are the positive and negative impacts of digital technologies on poverty?
  • How do environmental and social regulations or obligations affect prices for those in poverty?
  • Who benefits from poverty, and how?
  • What evidence is there that economic growth reduces poverty overall, and under what circumstances?

The full paper 100 Questions: identifying research priorities for poverty prevention and reduction published in Journal of Poverty & Social Justice as an Open Access paper can be accessed here.

The cumulative impact of welfare reforms

Inclusion-logoLess than one quarter of welfare recipients will be in a position to mitigate reductions in benefit payments by finding work or moving to cheaper accommodation, an independent study carried out by the Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion has today revealed.

The study shows that by 2015–16 the income of households claiming benefit will be lower on average by £1,615 per year (£31 per week). This is equivalent to around £1 in every £7 of household income. However, a shortage of jobs and affordable homes in many areas means that four out of every five of these households are likely to need some form of assistance from their council to help them cope with the reduction in welfare.

To open the full report please click here.