- Category: Volume 88 (Fall 2016 - Spring 2017)
- Published: 16 November 2016
- Written by RICHARD FELICETTI | ASSOCIATE NEWS EDITOR
Living in Northern Towns Can Add Years to Your Life
Depending on where you live in the state of New Jersey, your lifespan can vary greatly. Factors such as socio-economic status have a large impact on the type of lifestyle one lives, and ultimately their overall health, according to NJ.com.
Dr. Lynne Holden, Co-founder and President of Mentoring in Medicine, said, “Many families traditionally do not eat fresh fruits and vegetables. Quality produce at an affordable price is often not available in local neighborhoods. Therefore, families are used to eating canned food or carbohydrate and fat laden foods which have longer shelf lives.”
In New Jersey there is a tremendous gap between those who are wealthy and those who are not. When analyzing the geography of New Jersey, there is a clear north-south divide, as men and women in the north are expected to live an average of five years longer than those who live in the south.
With regards to the whole country, Bergen County, NJ has the fourth highest life expectancy at 81.9 years. “I strongly believe that people on low economic areas live shorter than most because of the few options and opportunities they have. Most were born into a low economic household and continued to partake in a vicious cycle that is hard to escape,” said Ava McClendon, a junior art student. “There aren’t many good jobs in these areas or good education so people often resort to selling drugs or doing things that are not legally acceptable. Some people suffer from depression and stress because they constantly face the reality of being poor and see the negative effects of it.”
Holden said, “Community leaders should work with politicians to secure alternative ways to supply fresh fruits and vegetables. Also, culturally creative ways to cook foods in traditional and tasty ways without added calories should be disseminated through various methods to community members. Children (and adults) should be made aware of the impact of various foods with components such as too much sugar and too much salt on health.”
In Toms River, the average life expectancy increased four years from 2001-2014, the highest rise in any county. However, other counties clearly display a divide, as someone in the most northern point of New Jersey can live as long as 10 years more than someone in the most southern point.
I think the reason that people in low economic areas live shorter lives is related to two different, yet related factors. The first being that generally speaking, low economic areas tend to be less “safe” in terms of violence and other illegal activities,” said junior psychology student Andrew Guerguis. “The second reason could be because of the cleanliness of the area or even the home. For example, maybe the home is infested with mold and the family or individual doesn’t have enough money to repair it.”
Guerguis added that there are a few possible solutions to this issue. To start, the state should work on improving the developments, building more affordable houses in areas that aren’t ghettos, and cleaning up towns and cities is a start. He believes we should all serve in these communities and for one-day walk in each other’s shoes.
A person in Cape May is expected to live three to four years shorter than an individual in Somerset, where people make a significantly higher income. Areas toward the north have more access to fresh food, better law enforcement, and better mental health.
class="StoryStyle-Hyphenloose">In the field of public health, we have been looking at how health is socially determined for a while,” said Jaime Myers, an assistant professor of Health and Physical Education. “There are many factors that play a role in this. Due to the increasing separation of communities along income lines across the last 50 years, we have seen a trend that those who live in low income areas have a multitude of barriers to good healthcare and beneficial living conditions for healthy living.”
Myers noted that healthcare is a large issue for people in low socio-economic areas, and they also lack the means of obtaining fresh fruit and vegetables and safe outdoor areas for physical activities. “Additionally, many low income community members report increased stress levels due to violence in the community and financial hardship. All of these factors combined (as well as many others) can influence life expectancy in negative ways,” said Myers.
Furthermore, the areas with the highest income have significantly more doctors, which means better healthcare. “We need to educate our children when they are young to develop healthier habits, plus experts in health care communities can help give knowledge and resources to teach parents and grandparents healthier habits (while maintaining cultural preferences to pass on from generation to generations) because they are the role models for their children,” said communication professor Barbara Baron.
When examining Cumberland, the state’s poorest county, compared to Bergen, the state’s richest, the divide is clear. Even the poorest people in Bergen County have a longer life expectancy than most of the world, whereas people in Cumberland live below the 40 states in the nation.
One of the big things we can do is reduce economic stratification of our communities by creating mixed-income housing in our strategic development plans,” said Myers. “Another is to invest in our public health infrastructure by creating more affordable and accessible healthcare facilities in communities. Improving community safety through public works projects designed to make clean safe recreation spaces and walking paths is another way to tackle the problem.”