16 May, 2016
For VOA Learning English, this is the Health & Lifestyle report.
The lives of rich people seem to be getting better and better. Rich people generally have better homes than poor people. They usually have better jobs and better schools for their children, too.
Now, a new study finds that the rich may even have better stress than poor people.
Stress is the way the brain reacts to any kind of demand or threat. The American Psychological Association says it is part of our body's fight-or-flight response.
When faced with danger, stress can create energy to fight off an attacker. It makes the body release hormones that increase our heart rate and blood pressure.
That is the stress of ancient times. In modern times, stress can help you give a great presentation at work or win a sporting event. This is short-term stress that leads to success in accomplishing a goal.
This is a good kind of stress. And it is the stress that most rich people have.
But many problems with life or work can cause stress. Stressors are the bills that you can't pay; the childcare that falls through at the last minute; or the car that won't start.
These stressors add to what experts call chronic stress. According to a new survey, this is the stress facing many poor people in the United States. The Brookings Institution, a public policy group, reported the finding.
The APA website notes that chronic stress can affect a person's mental and physical health. When people deal with these chronic stressors every day, their fight-or-flight response is stuck in the "on" position.
And chronic stress is poor people stress.
Poor people often experience stressful conditions beyond their control. If one thing goes wrong in their day – like a flat tire or picking up a sick child from school – their lives can spiral out of control. This can create a huge amount of chronic stress.
For some people, there is often no light at the end of tunnel. The day-to-day stress never lets up. And it is wears down the body. It harms the natural defenses against disease, puts pressure on the heart, makes muscles tired and can cause depression.
Besides causing physical issues, chronic day-to-day stress can lead to other problems.
It is difficult to plan for tomorrow when you can barely make ends meet today. Poor people often do not have time, energy or resources to plan and successfully complete long-term goals. The daily grind of life can make it more difficult to attend college classes at night in hopes of getting a better job.
Rich people also have stress and face difficulties. But their situations are very different. Rich people's stress is often linked to career advancement. It is short-term stress that helps lead them to a long-term goal.
Of course, rich people can have terrible things happen to them. But they are usually better prepared.
They usually have better life insurance policies. They may have more professional contacts that often reach far back to college and even high school. These connections can help them get another job should they lose the one they have.
People with money usually have better doctors and medical care than poor people. If a family member develops a drug dependency, for example, a person with money can send them to a drug treatment center.
The rich also have access to support that poor people often don't.
A poor person may worry a lot about a child getting poor grades in school. A rich person can pay a tutor to help their child. In other words, wealthy people can throw money at their problems. This can greatly reduce stress.
It is important to note that chronic stress can be a problem among poor people in the United States. In other countries, the poor may not experience the same kind of stress.
The Brookings survey found that the Americans most at risk are generally uneducated, lower-income white people. The rates of suicide and addiction to prescription drugs are on the rise among this group.
This same poll found that differences between life satisfaction and stress between rich and poor Americans are very large.
I'm Anna Matteo.
Anna Matteo wrote this story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
stress – n. a state of mental tension and worry caused by problems in your life, work, etc. : something that causes strong feelings of worry or anxiety
ace – v. to earn a very high grade on (an examination) : to get a grade of A on (an examination) : to perform very well on (a test or challenge)
promotion – n. the act of moving someone to a higher or more important position or rank in an organization
spiral out of control – idiomatic expression : when things change very quickly and in an uncontrolled way
light at the end of the tunnel – idiomatic expression : hope of success, happiness or help after a long period of difficulty
spouse – n. someone who is married : a husband or wife
throw money at (something) – idiomatic expression : to spend a lot of money on something (usually a problem) because you believe that only money can solve it