Thursday, April 26, 2012

Bears Bad News

The front page of today's Star Tribune was a double dose of bad news for people without means: More news on Accretive's strong-arm tactics in hospitals plus a New York Times story titled Banks Woo Poor Clients for Fees.

Basically, banks are figuring out ways to get to a lower common denominator than payday lenders, using fine-print fees like a 10 percent "origination fee" on loans, on top of interest charges. And they can take payments from the customer's account whether the money is in there or not, resulting in overdraft charges galore. Bonus!

Then page 2 had this from the Los Angeles Times: Exposure to Violence Harms DNA. A British separated twins study found that kids who had been abused, bullied, or had witnessed domestic violence had shorter telomeres in their DNA than their identical twins who had not had the same experience. Shorter telomeres mean greater susceptibility to disease, and generally are considered a marker of age (i.e., proximity to death).

Violence in this case is serving as a proxy for extreme stress. " 'Kids who are raised in poverty and hardship have more disease. This might explain why,' said Dr. Owen Wolkowitz, a psychiatrist at the University of California, San Francisco," the story said.

As I recall, African Americans -- regardless of economic status -- have poorer health than white Americans, and an earlier age of death, on average. Some researchers are trying to figure out why that is by looking for reasons within people's genetic heritage, but I've always thought that the stress of living in a racist society, or being in a devalued group, might account for it somehow. Maybe this is the mechanism.

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