A Commitment to Address Poverty and Inequality

Psychologists for Social Responsibility has issued the following statement, developed by PsySR’s Poverty and Inequality Project, in an effort to direct greater attention to these urgent issues from psychologists, other mental health professionals, policymakers, and the general public.

Poverty is the single greatest threat to individual human development and it simultaneously creates profound social disruption in the United States and around the world. Unless institutions and citizens take steps now to reduce and prevent poverty—and the growing inequality that deepens and widens its damaging repercussions—we will face a nightmarish future that can be measured in untold numbers of destroyed lives, communities, and institutions.

Poverty and inequality are responsible for adults often being too stressed to parent well; inadequate access to nourishing food, clean water, and sanitation; dilapidated housing, homelessness, and dangerous communities; schools unable to educate children to read, write, and think for themselves; conflict, crime, and violence; few work opportunities and low pay for jobs that do exist; daily struggles to manage personal, family, and financial chaos; and risks for premature birth and early death. All of these consequences contribute to the developmental damage that results from limited access to the basic resources that nurture us. Ultimately, poverty and inequality engender hopelessness, helplessness, and misery, and they tear at the social fabric of families and communities.

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The Conditions for Human Health and Well Being Reside within the Psychosocial Contexts of Human Life

Anthony Marsella

As our concern for human health and well being grows with each day, we find ourselves too often looking to solutions within limitations of the health care system. We speak of the need for more medical services, lower medical costs, more health professionals, better medical technologies, improvements in medical records, greater access to health care, and more research.

While all of these factors are important, they distract us from recognizing and addressing the very psychosocial causes that ultimately limit human health and well being – causes that could be addressed directly and immediately and that would significantly reduce dysfunction, disorder, and disease, and promote human health and well being.

We are infatuated with the physical. We pursue reductionism endlessly, going from limb, to organ, to cell, to gene, to atom and molecular space. All of these pursuits are warranted for they have helped illuminate the substrates and structures of illness. But they cannot in and of themselves address the tolls on human health and well being that are exacted within the psychosocial contexts of our lives. For example, can anyone deny that a reduction in poverty would limit scores of illnesses associated with the deprivations of poverty?

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