It’s late October, and I am kneeling in Old Chapel Hill Cemetery,
brushing the fallen leaves from a small, flat stone sunken into the earth. Percy R. Baker, June 23, 1913–May 11, 1966. A
few more weeks and he would have turned 53. Several feet away I am startled by
a marker the size of a lunch box that is half covered by a shrub. Thomas W. Battle, Jr., Mar. 15, 1918–May 10, 1918.
On the other side of the cemetery stands an imposing stone
monument the size of an upright piano. In letters large enough to read from
yards away, it reads: William F. Strowd, 1832–1911. The memorial
documents that he was a devout man, a member of the North Carolina
Constitutional Convention, and a member of the United States Congress. Strowd
lived to the age of 79, impressive in an era when the life expectancy was 51.
Nearby is an extravagant obelisk taller than a man, bearing a coat of arms in
gold against black granite, marking the grave sites of Eugene Simpson, who
lived 79 years, and Margaret Simpson, who lived to 85.
I did not know the descendants of the Bakers or the Battles or the
Simpsons, but I had just read about a research finding so curious that I had to
test it for myself. You could predict the life span recorded on a tombstone,
the study claimed, by the size of the monument. The explanation for this, of
course, is money: The wealthier you are, the longer you live, and the
bigger the tombstone your family can afford. This link between longevity and
tombstone size was documented by George Davey Smith, an epidemiologist in
Scotland. His team roamed the graveyards of Glasgow, recording the height of
the gravestones and the birth and death dates inscribed on them. He found that
each meter of height was associated with a little more than two additional
years of life. I brought my class of undergraduates out to the campus graveyard
equipped with tape measures to test whether we would find the same relationship
at another time and place. Sure enough, we found the same phenomenon in Chapel
Hill: Longer lives were recorded on larger stones.
There are a lot of reasons, of course, why poverty could be bad
for one’s health. The poor may do without basic medical care, safe living
conditions, and good sanitation. If conditions are truly desperate, they might
die of hunger. More commonly, malnourished children fail to develop healthy
immune systems and can die from common infections, like measles. Those two
sources of death together make up the statistics we occasionally hear that a
child dies of hunger every eight seconds (or ten seconds, or fifteen; as global
poverty has been reduced over the last decade, that grim statistic is
When we examine the data within individual countries, we also see
a very clear link between money and health. The more money you have, the better
your health and the longer you are likely to live. Take, for example, the
difference in death rates across the richest and poorest zip codes in America.
In the richest zip codes, the annual death rate is about 50 deaths per 10,000
people. In the poorest zip codes, that number nearly doubles to 90 deaths per
10,000. Each step up in wealth translates into extra years in life.
We can see this pattern even more clearly in data from a massive
study of more than ten thousand British Civil Service employees that has been
in progress since the 1960s. Her Majesty’s Civil Service has an exquisitely
detailed hierarchy, with dozens of clearly defined job grades from cabinet
secretaries who report directly to the prime minister all the way down to
entry-level clerical jobs. Physician Michael Marmot has found that each rung
down the ladder is associated with a shorter life span. The pattern is
strikingly linear, so that even the difference between the highest-status
government officials and those just one rung below was linked to increased
The Scottish gravestone research also included a telling detail
that sheds further light on the nature of the link between money and health.
Smith notes that the graves they studied belonged mostly to middle and
upper-class people. (The poor were often buried with no gravestone, or with a
wooden marker that did not survive the elements.) That particular fact may not
sound very significant, but it offers a clue to a much bigger truth about how
wealth shapes health.
In the story “Silver Blaze,” Sherlock Holmes investigates the
murder of a horse trainer and the disappearance of his famous racehorse the
night before a contest. A Scotland Yard detective asks Holmes, “Is there any
other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?” Holmes answers, “To
the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.” “The dog did nothing in the
nighttime,” says the detective. To which Holmes replies, “That was the curious
incident.” The dog that didn’t bark tells Holmes that the horse thief must have
been an insider, familiar to the dog. It takes Holmes’s extraordinary wit to
notice the absence of evidence as evidence. For their part, it took scientists
a while to realize that there was something missing from the graph relating
money to life span within developed countries.
But within a rich country, there is no bend; the relationship
between money and longevity remains linear. If the relationship was driven by
high mortality rates among the very poor, you would expect to see a bend. That
is, you would expect dramatically shorter lives among the very poor, and then,
once above the poverty line, additional income would have little effect. This
curious absence of the bend in the line suggests that the link between money
and health is not actually a reflection of poverty per se, at least not among
economically developed countries. If it was extreme poverty driving the effect,
then there would be a big spike in mortality among the very poorest and little
difference between the middle- and highest-status groups.
The linear pattern in the British Civil Service study is also
striking, because the subjects in this study all have decent government jobs
and the salaries, health insurance, pensions, and other benefits that are
associated with them. If you thought that elevated mortality rates were only a
function of the desperately poor being unable to meet their basic needs, this
study would disprove that, because it did not include any desperately poor
subjects and still found elevated mortality among those with lower status.
Psychologist Nancy Adler and colleagues have found that where people
place themselves on the Status Ladder is a better predictor of health than
their actual income or education. In fact, in collaboration with Marmot,
Adler’s team revisited the study of British civil servants and asked the
research subjects to rate themselves on the ladder. Their subjective
assessments of where they stood compared with others proved to be a better
predictor of their health than their occupational status. Adler’s analyses
suggest that occupational status shapes subjective status, and this subjective
feeling of one’s standing, in turn, affects health.
If health and longevity in developed countries are more closely
linked to relative comparisons than to income, then you would expect that
societies with greater inequality would have poorer health. And, in fact, they
do. Across the developed nations surveyed by Wilkinson and Pickett, those with
greater income equality had longer life expectancies. Likewise, in the United
States, people who lived in states with greater income equality lived longer.
Both of these relationships remain once we statistically control for average
income, which means that inequality in incomes, not just income itself, is
But how can something as abstract as inequality or social
comparisons cause something as physical as health? Our emergency rooms are not
filled with people dropping dead from acute cases of inequality. No, the
pathways linking inequality to health can be traced through specific maladies,
especially heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and health problems stemming from
obesity. Abstract ideas that start as macroeconomic policies and social
relationships somehow get expressed in the functioning of our cells.
To understand how that expression happens, we have to first
realize that people from different walks of life die different kinds of deaths,
in part because they live different kinds of lives. People in more unequal
states and countries have poor outcomes on many health measures, including
violence, infant mortality, obesity and diabetes, mental illness, and more.
Inequality leads people to take greater risks, and uncertain futures lead
people to take an impulsive, live fast, die young approach to life. There are
clear connections between the temptation to enjoy immediate pleasures versus
denying oneself for the benefit of long-term health. Inequality is linked
to risky behaviors. In places with extreme inequality, people are more likely
to abuse drugs and alcohol, more likely to have unsafe sex, and so on. Other
research suggests that living in a high-inequality state increases people’s
likelihood of smoking, eating too much, and exercising too little.
Taken together, this evidence implies that inequality leads to
illness and shorter lives in part because it gives rise to unhealthy behaviors.
That conclusion has been very controversial, especially on the political left.
Some argue that it blames the victim because it implies that the poor and those
who live in high-inequality areas are partly responsible for their fates by
making bad choices. But I don’t think it’s assigning blame to point out the
obvious fact that health is affected by smoking, drinking too much, poor diet
and exercise, and so on. It becomes a matter of blaming the victim only if you
assume that these behaviors are exclusively the result of the weak characters
of the less fortunate. On the contrary, we have seen plenty of evidence that
poverty and inequality have effects on the thinking and decision making of
people living in those conditions. If you or I were thrust into such
situations, we might well start behaving in more unhealthy ways, too.
The link between inequality and unhealthy behaviors helps shed
light on a surprising trend discovered in a 2015 paper by economists Anne Case
and Angus Deaton. Death rates have been steadily declining in the United States
and throughout the economically developed world for decades, but these authors
noticed a glaring exception: Since the 1990s, the death rate for middle-aged
white Americans has been rising. The increase is concentrated among men and
whites without a college degree. The death rate for black Americans of the same
age remains higher, but is trending slowly downward, like that of all other minority
The wounds in this group seem to be largely self-inflicted. They
are not dying from higher rates of heart disease or cancer. They are dying of
cirrhosis of the liver, suicide, and a cycle of chronic pain and overdoses of
opiates and painkillers.
The trend itself is striking because it speaks to the power of
subjective social comparisons. This demographic group is dying of violated
expectations. Although high school–educated whites make more money on average
than similarly educated blacks, the whites expect more because of their history
of privilege. Widening income inequality and stagnant social mobility, Case and
Deaton suggest, mean that this generation is likely to be the first in American
history that is not more affluent than its parents.
Unhealthy behaviors among those who feel left behind can explain
part of the link between inequality and health, but only part. The best
estimates have found that such behavior accounts for about one third of the
association between inequality and health. Much of the rest is a function of
how the body itself responds to crises. Just as our decisions and actions
prioritize short-term gains over longer-term interests when in a crisis, the
body has a sophisticated mechanism that adopts the same strategy. This crisis
management system is specifically designed to save you now, even if it has to
shorten your life to do so.
The system is called the stress response. Stress is the body’s
original payday loan. For such a remarkable system, stress was discovered
rather late, operating in plain sight for eons before anyone realized the
effect it was having. János Hugo Bruno “Hans” Selye was a young Hungarian
endocrinologist at McGill University in the 1930s. His research at the time
involved injecting rats with chemicals extracted from rat ovaries to measure
their effects on the animals’ bodies, and ideally to identify a new hormone.
At first the experiment looked like a huge success. The rats
treated with the ovarian extract showed enlargements of certain glands, while other
glands shrank, and the subjects developed stomach ulcers. Something was
happening, and it looked very much like a new hormonal effect. Selye then
examined his control group of rats, which had been injected with a different
kind of hormonal extract. The puzzling thing was that they showed the same
symptoms. So he tried another kind of extract, and then another. In trial after
trial, whatever he injected into the rats seemed to have the same physical
Rather than discovering the unique effects of some unknown
hormone, Selye had stumbled on a response to . . . what exactly? Having
material injected into one’s body? Being poked with needles? Selye did more
studies to determine precisely what kinds of traumas it took to generate the
symptoms. The studies involved the kind of grim procedures that would probably
never be allowed by research ethics boards today. He injected other chemicals,
like morphine and formaldehyde. He cut some rats’ skin and broke the bones of
others. He placed some in freezing cold, and others were starved for days.
Following each experiment, Selye dissected the rats and carefully
noted the bodily consequences of each particular type of treatment. He
ultimately discovered that the rats showed virtually the same pattern of
biological responses to every kind of distress.
His results reminded him of something that he had noticed years
earlier as a medical student. His professor had presented students with five
patients to observe, each suffering from a different ailment. The point of the
exercise was to get the students to notice the unique symptoms that marked each
disease, like the little red spots that differentiated the measles from the
flu. But what Selye had found most striking was that all of the patients shared
many symptoms, like fever, loss of appetite, aches and pains, and swollen
tonsils. When Selye suggested that there seemed to be a “syndrome of just being
sick,” his professor was not impressed, and his idea went nowhere. Until, that
is, Selye noticed the same generality in rats’ symptoms regardless of the
treatments to which they were exposed.
Selye first called this “general adaptation syndrome” and later
renamed it simply “stress.” The idea was unpopular among physiologists, who
were primarily interested in mapping the links between particular chemicals and
particular bodily effects. They thought of the body as something like a Swiss
army knife, with a special tool for every job, or a collection of delicate keys
to open each intricate lock. But Selye was saying that things were much messier
than that. Disturb the system in any way, and you get this same generalized
response. His supervising professor called it the “pharmacology of dirt.”
Selye had many of the details wrong. He thought, for example, that
long-term stress was harmful because the body ran out of stress hormones and
couldn’t replenish them quickly enough, leaving the body unguarded once the
hormones ran out. And his motivations were called into question when evidence
later emerged that he had been funded heavily by tobacco companies, which used
his research to argue that it wasn’t cigarettes, but stress, that was
dangerous: People simply smoked to relieve stress.
The concept of stress as a general bodily reaction to any kind of
crisis has, however, withstood the test of time. Today we understand the stress
response as the way the body prepares to expend a great deal of energy to
respond to a threat or an opportunity.
To understand how stress works, imagine that you are a
hunter-gatherer type searching for food on the grasslands. Suddenly, you hear a
shuffling behind the tall grass. It could be a lion, or a warrior from an enemy
tribe. In either case, you are in danger and will have to either fight or run.
Or it could be a rabbit, in which case you will have to act quickly to secure
tonight’s dinner. Or it might be a wild boar, which is also potentially dinner,
but might also be a threat if you are not quick and careful with his tusks. You
don’t have much time to determine whether the noise represents a crisis, an opportunity,
or both, and within a fraction of a second your entire body has reoriented
itself to prepare you for whatever the surprise might actually be.
Your brain directs various glands to release a complex chain
reaction of hormones into your bloodstream that cause changes in your cells.
Two of the most important stress hormones are adrenaline (also called
epinephrine) and cortisol. These and other hormones unlock glucose, proteins,
and fat stored in cells from food you’ve eaten and flush them into the bloodstream,
where they can be used as energy by the muscles. They also interfere with
insulin, whose job it is to remove glucose from the bloodstream and store it in
your cells for later use.
Now that you have a massive energy supply flooding your bloodstream,
you need to kick-start the circulatory system so that everything gets quickly
transported where it needs to go. Stress hormones speed up the heart and lungs
to supply more oxygen to the bloodstream and also cause the blood vessels to
contract, which makes every heartbeat pump blood with greater force. Like water
through a partially crimped hose, it turns from a stream to a spray as your
blood pressure rises. Heart attacks are more likely to occur during these
moments of stress, as it is then that the heart is working its hardest.
Another vital resource for your body in a potential crisis is
water. Stress hormones tell your kidneys to stop taking water out of the
bloodstream to make urine, while throughout the body water is diverted from
tissues to the bloodstream, where it is available for use as needed. This
explains why your mouth gets dry when you are about to make a wedding toast,
just when you’d like to have a tongue that did not stick to the roof of your
Finally, your stress system triggers an immune response called
inflammation. We ordinarily experience inflammation as a painful red swelling
around a cut or insect bite. Or you feel it as the sore, scratchy feeling in
your throat when you realize you’re not just tired, you’re coming down with a
cold. The body is flooding the potentially infected tissues with immune cells,
ready to kill invading organisms. The painful feeling that we experience as the
infection is actually the body’s reaction against it. It is the body’s own
cocktail of antibiotics and antivirals.
One of the leading roles in this assault is played by a kind of
cell called a macrophage (which translates to “big eater”). Unlike other parts
of the immune system that remember specific invaders and target them directly
for destruction, inflammation’s tactic is equivalent to a carpet bombing. These
cells ask only one question: Is it me or not-me? If the answer is not-me (that
is to say, if the molecular markers of one’s own body are not detected), then
the big eaters gobble it up.
We normally think of the immune system as reactive, in that once a
bacterium or virus has infiltrated the body, it mounts a counterattack. That’s
true, but the stress response does not wait until the body’s perimeter has
actually been breached. As soon as the grass starts rustling, the body
scrambles to prepare a preemptive response. Inflammatory cells are secreted
into the bloodstream to be ready as a precaution.
This impressive crisis response system raises an important
question: If our body has the power to boost our energy, deploy a preemptive
immune shield, and make us faster to respond to a challenge, then why do we
wait for a stressful situation to put these impressive abilities to use? Why
don’t we exploit them all the time?
The first reason is that in evolution, as in other areas of life,
there is no such thing as a free lunch. Stress does not create new energy; it
only redirects it: When the stress response gives a boost in one area, it has
to take something away somewhere else. In the face of the potential emergency
stirring in the grass, your body shuts down all unnecessary functions. The
glucose and proteins that flood your bloodstream are now being taken away from
longterm projects like cell division, maintenance, and repair and redirected to
Digestion, for example, grinds to a halt because that is a
longterm project that will be irrelevant if you don’t survive the next few
minutes. Growth processes also get shut down, which accounts for a condition
known as “stress dwarfism.” Children who experience prolonged periods of
intense stress, like abuse or neglect, may have stunted growth even if their
nutrition is adequate.
The second reason we can’t enjoy stress’s benefits all the time is
that it causes terrible side effects. We are accustomed to thinking of the
body’s responses as natural and, therefore, not harmful to us. But the hormones
released during stress are essentially powerful drugs made in-house. Doctors
use adrenaline and cortisol (in its synthetic form, cortisone) and other stress
hormones as medications for a variety of problems, but do so sparingly,
however, because they have serious consequences. As with other drugs, our
naturally produced stress hormones are safe if used only occasionally and for short
periods. But that isn’t the way we typically employ them.
Robert Sapolsky, a Stanford biologist and expert on stress, has
argued that if we utilized our stress response the way other animals do, we
would reap its benefits and avoid many of its costs. But it is the very
qualities that make stress a brilliant power booster throughout the animal
kingdom that also make it a cause of misery and disease for humans. As we have
seen, the brilliance of stress is that it does not wait until there is actual
tissue damage: It kicks in when faced with a potential threat. Humans, however,
can sense a threat that is not actually physically present. Just spend a minute
thinking about something that terrifies you or makes you anxious. Soon you will
notice your heart beating faster. Your temperature may rise and you might start
to sweat a bit. You are triggering your stress response merely with your
thoughts. Unlike other animals, we humans have the ability to lie awake at
night worrying about tomorrow’s PowerPoint presentation, next month’s mortgage
payment, or a weird-looking mole on your back.
Also unlike other animals, humans can turn the stress response on
for weeks, months, or years at a time. Think of the ramifications: We are
exploiting a system that is designed to ignore long-term costs in order to
redirect every resource to escaping an immediate emergency, but using it over
the long term.
When stress hormones stop insulin from storing glucose for
extended periods of time, we are at greater risk for diabetes and obesity. When
they make the heart pump harder and the blood vessels constrict for months on
end, we become prone to cardiovascular disease. And when inflammation goes
unchecked, the immune system can become overactive—so eager to attack that it
ceases to differentiate between cells that are “me” and “not-me.” When the
immune system starts to mount an offensive against our own body’s cells, it
causes autoimmune diseases.
Another way it can become overstimulated is by failing to
differentiate between harmful invaders (bacteria and viruses) and harmless
substances (like pollen, dust mites, or certain ingredients in foods). When
that happens, an allergy develops. Long-term inflammation is also a risk factor
for heart disease, depression, and other serious disorders.
None of this seems very adaptive, does it? Our craving for
status, like our appetites for food and sex, can get us in trouble because what
worked well for millennia is not always suited to our modern environment. The
same mismatch is true of stress. Recall that our ancestors were
hunter-gatherers for much, much longer than we have lived as we do today.
Archaeologists estimate that 15 percent of the population in prehistoric times
died a violent death. That is five times higher than the comparable rate in the
20th century, including all the deaths from both world wars, the
Holocaust, and other genocides. Before modern sanitation and antibiotics,
simple infections caused astronomical mortality rates. Life expectancy among
the ancient Greeks, for example, was about 35 years. In the presence of so
much violence and disease, with none of modern medicine’s cures, the
self-medication of stress provided the best shot at beating these acute threats
of infection and injury. Today, the massive arsenal of our threat response
system is the same, but the nature of the threats has changed.
Our ancestors could lie awake in their caves worrying about
tomorrow just as we do. But for them, the downsides of stress were massively
outweighed by its benefits. Unlike our ancestors, we are now fortunate to live
long enough to succumb more often to the diseases of old age, rather than to
predators in the grass. The downside of that trade is that the side effects of
stress can be more harmful in the contemporary environment than the threats it
evolved to protect us from. Today in economically developed countries, some of
the most common causes of death are heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, all of
which can be caused or worsened by stress. Now that fewer organisms are able to
kill us, we are left with a cure that may be worse than the disease.
Because stress is the body’s way of focusing on an immediate
crisis at the expense of long-term costs, it’s not surprising that economic
hardship and low social status can lead to bodily stress reactions. Many
different kinds of studies have confirmed the link between status and stress.
Consider, for example, Robert Sapolsky’s work with baboons living wild in a
national park in Kenya. Sapolsky spent his summers observing the animals for
years, getting to know individual members of their troops, and what rank each
animal held in the hierarchy. To measure their stress, he would anaesthetize a
baboon with a medicated dart and then take a blood sample. He found that the
lower the baboon’s rank in the pecking order, the higher its stress hormone
levels and the more likely it was to suffer from stress-related illnesses such
as ulcers. But high-ranking males, who could mate with any females they chose
and take out aggression on any lower-ranking male, had much lower levels of
One summer Sapolsky noticed that the baboons had taken to foraging
in a garbage pit next to a tourist lodge. From the monkeys’ point of view, it
was an easy buffet. Of course, not all the baboons were allowed to enjoy the
feast, as dominant males mainly kept the spoils for themselves, getting fat as
they ate the junk food. Ironically, the baboons eating from the garbage pile
contracted bovine tuberculosis, a disease they never would have been exposed to
in their natural foraging grounds. Within three years, the more dominant males
died off, leaving the troop with a hierarchy, but the most aggressive males
were no longer at the head of it. When Sapolsky analyzed blood samples from the
subordinate males in this newly flattened social order, he found lower levels
of stress hormones.
Studies in laboratory monkeys have shown a correlation between
having higher rank in the troop and having less bodily stress. But that
correlation doesn’t tell us whether it is low rank itself that causes increased
stress or whether increased stress causes low rank. It might be that the
anxious monkeys are the ones who are dominated by less stress-prone members of the
troop. So researchers at Wake Forest University experimentally altered the
hierarchy of monkeys living in laboratory-based troops to better understand
cause and effect. First, they confirmed that, in a primate hierarchy, the lower
down the social ladder an animal is, the higher its stress hormones will tend
to be. They then did the lower-ranking monkeys a big favor by permanently
removing the dominant ones from the troop.
The researchers found that if you remove the most dominant
animals, the stress hormones of the “middle management” animals decrease, as
they find themselves suddenly “promoted” by the absence of the boss. The
laboratory experiments confirmed what Sapolsky suspected from his field
research: Rank in the hierarchy is responsible for differences in levels of
stress hormones, rather than the other way around.
Heightened stress responses in low-ranking primates makes
biological sense, because it is the low-ranking animals who are most likely to
be beaten, bitten, and deprived of their dinner. They need to mobilize their
bodies’ resources to deal with emergencies a lot more often than the alpha
males do. Is this also true of humans? We don’t exactly have dominance
hierarchies, but we do have plenty of hierarchical structures just the same. We
measure them not with food and mating rights, but with money, power, social
class, and social comparison. Based on the animal research, we should expect
that individuals of lower status should be more stressed than others.
Indeed, studies have shown that people with lower incomes tend to
have higher levels of stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, in their
bloodstreams. They tend to have hyperreactive immune systems and higher levels
of inflammation in particular. Some studies have measured stress hormones and
inflammation as people go about their daily business, and found that those who
are poorer or who feel lower in status have slightly higher levels. But the
differences really ramp up if you expose individuals to stress and see how
their bodies react.
One study by Andrew Steptoe at University College London recruited
volunteers from high- and low-status occupations within the British Civil
Service and gave them stressful tasks to do. In one experiment, subjects had to
use a pen to trace a moving star on a computer screen. That sounds easy, but
the subjects could only see their hand through a mirror, so right appeared as
left and vice versa. The experiment was designed so that the star moved quickly
enough that the subjects would make mistakes, and the computer beeped loudly
whenever the pen veered off the path. To guarantee the task would be stressful,
the experimenters told the subjects that “the average person” could trace the
star accurately, implying that the inevitable errors would leave them feeling
less than average.
During and after the star-tracing task, the experimenters measured
subjects’ heart rate and markers of inflammation in their blood. Both high- and
low-status groups rated the task as equally stressful. But their bodies reacted
differently. The low-status group showed more inflammation markers in their
bloodstream. And although both groups had higher heart rates during the test,
those of the high-status group soon returned to normal. The low-status group
was still showing elevated rates two hours later.
A continent away in Los Angeles, psychologist Keely Muscatell and
colleagues obtained similar results using a completely different method, and
added a fascinating new wrinkle. This study began by interviewing volunteers
while video-recording them. Imagine what it’s like to be a subject in this
study: You go to a lab at UCLA, where you fill out a questionnaire, including
information about your income and your position on the Status Ladder. You are
then interviewed by a pleasant, professional college student, who asks personal
questions like: What are you most proud of in your life? What would you most
like to change about yourself?
The following day you go to a laboratory where a nurse places a
needle in your arm to sample your blood, and then lie down in an fMRI machine
to have your brain scanned. The device looks like a hospital bed, except that
you place your head in the center of a white donut-like structure. It is made
of smooth plastic, like the overhead baggage compartments in an airplane, and
is the size of a Volkswagen. As you take your position, you look up at a little
computer screen inside the donut hole and learn that another experimental
subject is going to watch the interview you just recorded and rate what she
thinks of you. And you get to watch her ratings. On a little computer screen
appears a grid of squares, and within each square is a personality description.
As the other subject watches your video, she moves a cursor around the screen,
effectively complimenting or insulting you with her clicks. One minute she
thinks you’re—click—intelligent. The next, she decides you are—click—annoying. How rude! A moment later, she sees the
real you again—click—caring. The process goes on for a while, but
what you didn’t know is that the “subject” in the other room was a sham, and it
was the experimenters who were systematically praising and insulting you with
those mouse clicks while scanning your brain and monitoring your blood
throughout the emotional roller-coaster ride.
The researchers found that when volunteers were being evaluated by
the person in the other room, markers of inflammation in their blood rose
significantly. This effect was especially powerful for those who rated
themselves as low on the Status Ladder: Their inflammation spiked.
There are several striking things about these findings. First, we
have experimental evidence that the social evaluation actually caused the
changes in inflammation, not simply that the two are correlated. Second, the
whole process took place over the course of about ninety minutes, and
inflammatory changes were detected in less than an hour. The human social
hierarchy was playing out and expressing itself throughout nearly every cell in
the body on a scale of minutes.
The study made one more startling discovery. The pathway from
subjective ratings of status to inflammation in the bloodstream was controlled
by brain activity in a particular network of regions in the frontal cortex.
These regions are activated, among other things, when people think about the
thoughts, feelings, and perspectives of others. Although more research is
needed to confirm this initial finding and its interpretation, the authors
suggest that the brain may be actively computing where we fall along the Status
Ladder using the same neural machinery we ordinarily use to assess what other
people are thinking of us. Like Sapolsky’s baboons, humans in this study were
reacting to a low rank in the hierarchy as if it were a physical threat. Their
bodies mobilized an immune response as if social slights were literal attacks.
For public relations firms or emergency medical responders or
biological organisms, there is only one way to manage a crisis: to prioritize
immediate necessities and deal with the future later. There may, of course, have
been organisms that took a different approach. But the ones who ignored the
most pressing demands in a critical situation are no longer with us to share
their wisdom. Tending to immediate needs at the expense of the future is what
your brain is doing when it dumps cortisol and adrenaline into the bloodstream.
It is unleashing the energy and inflammation that ready you for battle, and if
it risks diabetes and heart disease one day, then so be it. That is what your
brain is doing when it tunes attention to the rustling in the bushes and
ignores everything in the background. When you feel that you have nothing, even
the cells in your body start demanding to take what they need now and worry
about the future later. Inequality accelerates this process by making everyone
feel less secure. It does not matter whether we measure the effects in dry
mortality statistics or in the faded granite of a tombstone. Eventually we pay
the price for this crisis management, as the future becomes now and our later
WHICH SIDE OF THE EQUATION ARE YOU DIGGING YOUR CHILDRENS’ GRAVES?
of middle class families have been driven to bankruptcy by illness
“This dramatic contrast in
life expectancy between the rich and poor is directly correlated to the growth
of obscene wealth at the top among a tiny elite and entrenched poverty among
growing numbers of people at the bottom.”….. BUT AMERICA STILL FINDS BILLIONS
TO HAND TO MEXICAN INVADERS, WHICH INCLUDES “FREE” HEALTHCARE.
In the first part of
the Lancet series, “Inequality and the health-care system in
the USA,” the British medical journal’s researchers found that these
income-based disparities in US life expectancy are worsened by the for-profit
US health care system itself, which relies on private insurers, pharmaceutical
companies and health care chains. It is also the most expensive health system
in the world.
America’s Super-rich Live 15 Years Longer!
………….. America’s Bludgeoned Middle-Class Dies Young, Addicted and Poor!
“The Republican proposal builds on the
core features of Obamacare, designed to boost the profits of the private
insurers and slash health care costs for the government and big business.”
“The lifetime costs of Social Security and Medicare
benefits of illegal immigrant beneficiaries of President Obama’s executive amnesty
would be well over a trillion dollars, according to Heritage Foundation expert Robert
Rector’s prepared testimony for a House panel obtained in advance by Breitbart
emphasis on class warfare, open borders, secularism, and multiculturalism at
the expense of Americanism by not only the Democratic Party, but by their
cohorts in the media and universities has led to a very divided America
with each having a separate vision for the United States. The Left as
represented by the Democratic Party seeks an open-border stateless America
where anyone who sets foot on our soil is free to practice their branch of
identity within our borders and with no allegiance to American
TRUMPERNOMICS: Serving the Rich,
the Greedy and the Crooked.
Puzder’s nomination is of a piece with Trump’s other cabinet
choices. Betsy DeVos, an enemy of public education, has been selected to head
the Department of Education. Ben Carson, the neurosurgeon known for his
antipathy towards government “interference” in housing regulation, has been
nominated as the Housing and Urban Development Secretary.
ENEMY OF THE AMERICAN WORKER and ADVOCATE FOR OPEN BORDERS
TRUMP'S OPEN BORDERS
AND AMNESTY/ NON-ENFORCEMENT POLICIES WILL HELP KEEP THE HAMBURGER INDUSTRY
WELL STOCKED WITH "CHEAP" LABOR ILLEGALS.... The America people will
then be forced to pay the REAL cost of all that staggeringly expensive labor
“Yet Andrew Puzder, the
chief executive of the company that operates Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, has been chosen by President-elect Donald
Trump as labor secretary.”
“Mr. Puzder, however, has been adamantly
opposed to a meaningful increase in the federal minimum wage, which is $7.25 an
hour. Mr. Trump has said he could stomach an increase to $10, which is still
“Here is the record at
those restaurants. When the Obama Labor Department looked at thousands of
complaints involving fast-food workers, it found labor law violations in 60
percent of the investigations at Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, usually for failure
to pay the minimum wage or time and a half for overtime.”