From the U.S. News and World Report, writer Danielle Kurtzleben unpacks the latest survey.
Of the illnesses tracked in a Gallup report on the data, depression has the greatest gap between those in poverty and not in poverty. Nearly 31 percent of adults who lived below the poverty line in 2011 said they had been diagnosed with depression at some point, almost twice as high as the rate for those not in poverty — 15.8 percent. The share of adults in poverty with asthma (17.1 percent) or obesity (31.8 percent) was also roughly 6 percentage points higher in each case than the share of adults not in poverty. The study also showed that diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart attacks were slightly more likely to afflict those in poverty than those who are not.
"It was interesting to see that depression appears to disproportionately affect those in poverty more than other chronic conditions — and to see the extent of the difference," says Elizabeth Mendes, deputy managing editor at Gallup, in an email to U.S. News.
While that finding is striking, the Gallup report points out that the causal relationship between depression and poverty — not to mention the other diseases listed in the study — is complicated. Depression can be associated with other chronic illnesses, and depression can both lead to and result from poverty. In addition, outside factors could contribute to any of these problems.
One outside factor is health habits. Smoking was far more prevalent among adults in poverty, 33 percent of whom said they were smokers, compared to 19.9 percent of those not in poverty.