‘Everybody outside of the top is suffering’: How stress is harming America’s health

The stresses of poverty in the United States have grown so intense that they are harming the health of lower-income Americans — even prematurely leading to their death.

A report published Monday by the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution finds that stress levels have greatly increased for Americans at all income levels since the 1970s, but especially for low-income groups, as the chart below shows.

The report doesn’t measure stress as we typically think about it in daily life. Instead, the researchers track “stress load,” an index of certain biological markers such as blood pressure, cholesterol level, and kidney and liver function, that they say are “associated with long-term physiological strain.” These metrics are strong indicators of a person’s health and mortality, according to the report.

“The poor have seen really striking increases in the stress load index,” said Diane Schanzenbach, one of the report’s authors and the director of the Hamilton Project.

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