Low Income Families Suffer More Infections than Wealthier

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

According to the results of two new studies from the University of Michigan, children and adults from low-income families suffer from chronic infections to a much greater degree than those in wealthier households.

The study results show that persistent infections, such as hepatitis A and herpes carry lifelong implications that affect quality of life. According to Allison Aiello, senior author on the studies and an assistant professor of epidemiology at the U-M School of Public Health, "In this study, we found that lower income populations are also more likely to be exposed to a cluster of persistent infections."

Data for the study was extracted from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which targets the general U.S. population. The disparity in persistent infections between children from low versus higher income families is a cause of concern to the researchers. The effect has a direct impact on chronic diseases carried throughout life.


The analysis showed that low-income children are exposed to almost twice as many infections as those from higher income families. The researchers also found that those with a college degree had half the risk of chronic infection compared to those with a high school diploma.

The study found that the odds of a child having CMV (herpes related virus) decreases by 21 percent; HSV-1 (herpes virus that causes cold sores) risk declines by 32 percent; and the risk of Hepatitis A drops 29 percent when family income doubles. Compared to white children, non-Hispanic black children are twice as likely to be infected with H Pylori, and 1.4 times as likely to be infected with HSV-1. The odds of H.Pylori and HSV 1 decrease by eight and eleven percent respectively for every year of parental education.

The researchers plan more studies to explore the increased incidence of chronic infections in low-income children, versus children from higher income families. Further plans to evaluate a potential link between chronic infections, and poor nutrition and exposure to chronic stress may lead to clues that can help low-income children remain healthier throughout life.
The authors conclude, "The disproportionate burden of persistent infections among disadvantaged groups across all ages may be one biologic pathway by which low socioeconomic position is related to increased rates of morbidity and mortality in the United States."

The study tells us that more research is needed to find ways to decrease the burden of chronic infections in low-income families - a problem that has a major impact on public health.

Socioeconomic and Race/Ethnic Patterns in Persistent Infection Burden Among U.S. Adults