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Thursday, July 11, 2024 | Back issues
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Childhood Poverty Boosts Cognitive Risk, NIH Says

(CN) - Childhood poverty can lead to an increased risk of neurological impairment, a National Institutes of Health study suggested.

Poor children confront this risk along with the dangers of emotional and cognitive delays that they are already known to face, according to the NIH report, which was published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

Stephen Gilman, the study's senior author, found the effect of poverty on the risk of neurological impairment was not overwhelmingly obvious.

"However, the findings do indicate that an impoverished environment may pose a hazard for a child's developing nervous system," he said.

Some of the disorders poor children may be more likely to face include attention deficit disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety and learning difficulties.

The researchers looked at data collected about children born between 1959 and 1966. Advantaged and disadvantaged children had similar levels of neurological impairment at birth.

However, differences began to appear as early as four months into the children's lives. At point, the disadvantaged children had a 12.8 percent chance of neurological disabilities, while the most advantaged had only a 9.3 percent.

At the age of seven, this gap widened to 20.2 percent for disadvantaged children to 13.5 percent for their more advantaged counterparts.

For the purposes of this study, being advantaged not only related to income level, but also to education, employment status and whether two parents were in the home.

According to the NIH, the study authors theorized that children living in poverty are more prone to neurological impairments because of the increased risk of child abuse, depression, anxiety and substance abuse.

The study was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

The authors also noted that more children are living in poverty now than when the data was collected. They added that more research could lead to ways to prevent the children's neurological impairment.

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