A growing body of research indicates that poverty (defined as deprivation of necessities) and violence can imprint on our brains and even alter our DNA; resulting in long lasting cultural and societal impacts.
Studies on gorillas suggest that DNA can be altered after sustained exposure to violence, making it increasingly difficult for a majority of those impacted to have the capability to change their behavior and survive. Considering the genetic similarity between gorillas and humans (95-99%) this is alarming.
An article published by Global Citizen, an online community dedicated to ending extreme poverty, discusses recent research of the effects of poverty on the human brain https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/this-is-your-brain-on-poverty-5-facts/.
Most of us understand the short and mid term outcomes of the stresses of poverty and violence – poorer health, higher mortality, higher risk of homelessness, lower quality of education resulting in fewer opportunities, greater risk of trauma, etc. But we are now learning that long term deprivation can leave many of those impacted – and future generations – unable to overcome these outcomes to thrive, or even survive.
Stopping this cycle requires a serious commitment by all of us to intervene and stop the cycle. We must remove barriers to economic security and universal health access. There is no question that genetically we are one human race. What happens to any of us, happens to all of us. The only question is: Will we make the commitment to end poverty and violence? Future generations are depending on us.
Joanne Bintliff-Ritchie is an individual Partner and Co-Chair of the BCWAC Communications Committee