When struggling to make ends meet when facing financial difficulty it is being claimed that it can reduce your IQ by 13 points, which is the same as losing an entire night’s sleep.
Differing from the effects of stress, this problem comes about from having too many things to worry about which results in your ability to think clearly becoming limited. If someone is worried about rent, feeding and clothing their family and paying household bills, they can suffer a genuine mental handicap says scientists.
Economics professor Sendhil Mullainathan, from Harvard University in the US, said: “Our results suggest that when you’re poor, money is not the only thing in short supply. Cognitive capacity is also stretched thin.
“That’s not to say that poor people are less intelligent than others. What we show is that the same person experiencing poverty suffers a cognitive deficit, as opposed to when they’re not experiencing poverty.”
The impact poverty can have on mental capcity is reflected in the general phenomenon that is related to scarcity says researchers. When something is lacking, whether it be money, time, social ties, and even calories, it puts a strain on the brain.
“When you’re poor you can’t say, ‘I’ve had enough, I’m not going to be poor any more, or ‘forget it, I just won’t give my kids dinner, or pay rent this month,” said Professor Eldar Sharif, another member of the Princeton team.
“Poverty imposes a much stronger load that’s not optional and in very many cases is long lasting. It’s not a choice you’re making, you’re just reduced to a few options. This is not something you see with many other types of scarcity.”
Proffessor Shafir believes that services to those struggling financially should take into account the mental effect poverty can have and provide simpler forms as well as making it eaier to seek assistance.
“The poor, who our research suggests are bound to make more mistakes and pay more dearly for errors, inhabit contexts often not designed to help.”