Poverty in Allen County affects public health

By Mackenzi Klemann - [email protected]

LIMA — Rates of chronic disease in Allen County were largely unchanged amid the pandemic, but families living in poverty face a significantly higher risk of developing chronic conditions like high blood pressure or arthritis, a community health survey found.

Only 27% of low-income households surveyed reported their health as excellent or very good, compared to 61% of those whose household earnings exceed $25,000, according to the Allen County health assessment report.

Allen County Public Health and partner agencies released the findings Thursday.

The surveys were mailed to 1,200 randomly selected adults last fall, while youth were invited to participate in a similar survey through local schools to inform Allen County’s community health improvement plan, which is currently focused on mental health, chronic disease prevention, maternal and infant health, housing and transportation.

Those living in low-income households were more likely to report their quality of life was impaired by physical, emotional or mental troubles than their moderate to high-income peers, 38% to 16%, respectively.

And low-income residents were at higher risk of obesity (52%); smoking (44%); arthritis (54%) and high blood pressure (44%) than those in households earning at least $25,000, the survey found.

Mental health has also declined. One in three adults reported their mental health was poor at least four days in the previous month, an increase from one in three in 2014, according to the survey. Top stressors cited were jobs, finances and death of family or friends.

Only 6% of adults reported seeking help for depression, anxiety or other mental health troubles.

Likewise, 32% of youth said they felt sad or hopeless most days for at least two weeks—a sign of depression, while 17% of youth here said they had seriously contemplated suicide and 8% attempted suicide in the last year, the survey found.

The report found positive trends too: Health insurance coverage has improved significantly in the last decade, as the uninsured rate for adults fell from 14% in 2009 to 4% in 2021.

More seniors reporting getting a flu shot in 2021 (77%) and more adults visited a doctor for a routine checkup (71%) than in previous surveys. And fewer youths here reported using tobacco (4%) or consuming alcohol (15%) than statewide and national trends.


By Mackenzi Klemann

[email protected]

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