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Mental Health Care and Socioeconomic Status

Updated: Sep 4, 2023

Understanding socioeconomic class involves categorizing people based on their social and financial status. It's important to remember that class is not an inherent truth but a social concept that changes over time, culture, and location. However, the impact of class distinctions on our lives and well-being is undeniably real.

In the United States, socioeconomic class, also known as social class or socioeconomic status, is determined by three main factors: income, education, and occupation. Income plays a significant role in shaping one's class position, but we should not overlook the importance of occupation and education. The perceived value and status of one's job can influence class placement, while higher levels of education can help individuals move up from one class to another. On the other hand, student debt can hinder upward mobility and lead to a downward shift.

In the United States, the social landscape is commonly divided into three primary classes: lower, middle, and upper (or poor, middle-class, and wealthy). Additionally, the working class is often considered as another category. It's important to note that these divisions are general and subject to interpretation based on different perspectives.

The lower class consists of individuals who don't have enough income to meet their basic needs. They may rely on support from family, friends, charitable organizations, or the government. Employment status can vary from full employment to unemployment or underemployment. Factors such as age and disability can also prevent individuals from working.

The working class occupies a space between the lower and middle classes. While they are employed, job security is often uncertain, and they may carry a significant burden of debt. Economic instability makes it challenging for working-class individuals to achieve middle-class comforts.

The middle class is further divided into lower middle class, middle class, and upper middle class. Determining one's subgroup within the middle class depends on household income, size, and the local cost of living. However, defining the middle class is complex as perception plays a significant role. Many individuals consider themselves part of the middle class, even if their income falls short of the traditional classification. Variables such as debt, homeownership, assets, education, occupation, and lifestyle further complicate this picture.

The upper class generally includes households with an annual income of at least $250,000, although regional disparities and household size can affect this threshold. This class includes individuals who have

recently acquired wealth, as well as those who have inherited it and continue to grow their wealth through smart investments. A small percentage of the upper class, known as the ultrawealthy, possess assets exceeding $30 million. While only 2% of Americans identify themselves as upper class, their substantial resources give them a disproportionate presence as property owners, influential business figures, and influential policymakers.

Income has a significant influence on mental health. While higher income is associated with increased happiness, the emotional benefits level off once a certain income threshold is reached, which is around $95,000 annually for individuals. Research has also shown that teenagers from affluent families are more at risk of substance abuse and mood disorders compared to their less financially privileged counterparts. Additionally, a correlation has been found between higher socioeconomic class and a greater likelihood of engaging in unethical behaviors and unlawful activities.

Conversely, individuals experiencing poverty are more likely to face physical and mental health challenges. The constant strain of dealing with poverty-related hardships leads to elevated stress levels. Poverty is associated with higher cortisol levels, a hormone linked to stress. Moreover, those living in poverty often experience more stress related to poverty.

Poverty brings the burden of constant urgent problems, such as meeting basic daily needs like food, housing, or healthcare. Trying to solve these pressing problems with limited resources often means making decisions that sacrifice future goals. Limited wealth results in fewer available choices and fewer resources to handle the long-term consequences of imperfect decisions.

People living in poverty often have more exposure to trauma, higher rates of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and less access to support and recovery resources compared to the general population. Experts differentiate between "big-T" trauma and "little-t" trauma to understand different types of experiences that can be traumatizing. Big-T trauma refers to clearly dangerous and extreme events like war or physical abuse, while little-t trauma refers to life-altering but not life-threatening events like divorce or job loss. Whether an experience is traumatic depends on an individual's perception. Poverty can be a big-T trauma for some and a little-t trauma for others.

Children make up a significant portion of the impoverished population in the United States. Early childhood poverty has strong links to negative health outcomes, including language acquisition, memory skills, social-emotional learning, and physical well-being in young children. The stress of being poor can take a toll on caregivers and lead to neglect, which is also connected to the development of PTSD in children.

Accessing mental health care can be challenging for low-income individuals. Barriers include the inability to afford treatment, a lack of local mental health providers, limited transportation options, and the absence of a reliable internet connection for online therapy. Mental health stigma and a lack of paid time off or affordable childcare further complicate the situation.

Everyone deserves professional treatment for their mental health struggles regardless of income or socioeconomic status. There are resources available to help you find affordable mental health care, even if you don't have insurance. Global Therapy, Inc offers discounted rates and online sessions for individuals without reliable transportation. You can contact them at 479-268-4598 or visit their website or They are ready to assist you.



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