Kevin Pang
PSYC144: Psychobiology and Culture of Pain
Fall 2003
Final Project

Paper 4: Socioeconomic Status and Health

   This research report was written by Jo C. Phelan, Ph.D. and Bruce G. Link, Ph.D. in an attempt to devise a way to improve public health. They argue in their paper that a person's health is "as much a product of education, financial resources, and social status as it is of genetic make-up, personal habits, and exposure to disease".(3) They argue the best course to improving public health is to examine the effects of non-health policies such as tax laws, regulation, minimum wage, Head Start programs, and parental leave benefits on poverty, education, access to power, and other social factors that, they believe, affect health. The paper supports my hypothesis in that it recognizes health risks such as dirty water, poor hygiene, and diet as a result of a person's lack of knowledge. Furthermore, the paper argues that the ability to minimize the risk of contracting disease is directly related to his/her socioeconomic status.

   "People with access to wealth, knowledge, and power have the means to take advantage of all the relevant health information available".(3) Because of this, the wealthy are able to treat and prevent illnesses thus lowering the amount of pain they experience. The poor, however, do not have the same access and are left feeling helpless when in pain. The socioeconomic demands of modern health care prevent the poor from perceiving pain as an unnecessary burden on their lives. The paper supports this theory by citing examples of previous cases where socioeconomic status seemed to influence a person's ability to obtain and utilize modern health care discoveries:
These examples are meant to show that historically, the lower class has not taken advantage of the latest innovations and discoveries in health care. This supports my hypothesis because it shows the connection between socioeconomic status and pain. The examples of smoking, HIV/AIDS, and coronary artery disease demonstrate that the poor continue to put themselves at risk even when modern science has found ways to cure and prevent these diseases. When applying these findings to, say, painful injuries or other health related illnesses, one realizes that a person's low socioeconomic status directly affects their perception on pain. Being unaware of proper health care treatment renders the poor helpless to their pain. They do not know how to treat their injuries or how to prevent developing them in the first place. In order for health to improve in the lower class, there must be an effort to educate the masses. It is useless to those of lower socioeconomic status to develop health care treatments that are only accessible to the rich.