October 23, 2009

Demand and control

Edith is stressing out the turkeys.

El Cabrero has been blogging off and on about how social status affects health and longevity. As mentioned previously, there's a really clear social gradient that seems to work all up and down the scale.

Those in the highest status positions are healthier and live longer than those with "only" high status positions, who live longer than those with moderate social status positions, and so on.

One key factor in all this, according to British epidemiologist Michael Marmot, is having a sense of autonomy and control over life and work. This tends to increase as you climb the ladder and decreases as you descend it. In The Status Syndrome, Marmot cites research that finds that high demand/low control work situations are particularly toxic.

This problem isn't limited to the workplace however. A typical low income person in the US can face control/autonomy issues all the time, i.e. by living in an unsafe neighborhood and/or in bad housing; facing economic insecurity, from juggling bills to dealing with evictions or foreclosures; and dealing with conflicts with landlords, neighbors, bill collectors, etc. These kinds of experience trigger the body's stress reaction and change body chemistry and hormone production.

And here we face an evolutionary lag. Our bodies developed the stress response (or fight or flight syndrome) to deal with short term dangers and threats. If the stress is chronic, this can trigger all kinds of problems, ranging from heart disease to mental disorders such as depression...all of which explains why diseases and early mortality are as unequally distributed as wealth and status, albeit in the other direction.

PUBLIC OPTION. Here's the latest on health care reform in the Senate.

OUCH. The US economy has lost over 5 percent of jobs since Dec. 2007. The numbers are much higher in some areas than others.

KING SOLOMON DON'T LIVE 'ROUND HERE. This analysis from the Charleston Daily Mail talks about how hard it will be to find "balance" in current coal controversies.

THE LATEST TWIST in the Megan Williams saga is here.


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