According to recent study, children who have experienced deprivation are more prone than those who have not to make hasty decisions, which can lead to addictions later in life. ‘Trait impulsivity,’ or the need for instant satisfaction, has been related to increased expenditure on food, particularly unhealthy, high-calorie foods. According to studies, children who suffer poverty and food insecurity as youngsters have a higher BMI as adults than those who do not. Researchers at Aston University’s School of Psychology discovered a link between childhood deprivation and impulsive behaviour, which can lead to addiction later in life.
The findings, the result of six years of research, also discovered a new relationship between impulsivity, obesity, and the cost of living issue. Professor Richard Tunney, chair of Aston University’s School of Psychology, released a research in Scientific Reports earlier this year showing that children who suffer deprivation make more impulsive choices than children who do not. The study contrasted 146 children, with an average age of eight, living in some of England’s most destitute districts to youngsters living in some of the most affluent neighbourhoods. Children were offered the option of taking home a modest sum of money (for example, GBP1) or receiving GBP10 every week, or even more after a year.
The length of time a person is prepared to wait for a bigger sum of money may be used to compute a ‘discount rate,’ which illustrates how much the waiting time affects the value of the money. An impulsive individual may choose GBP1 today since the value of GBP10 in six months has been ‘discounted’ to less than GBP1. This implies that the GBP10 is reduced by GBP9 throughout the six-month wait for them. A less impulsive individual could be ready to wait six months for GBP10 but not a year for GBP15. This means that the value of the GBP15 is reduced by GBP5 due to the additional six-month delay. This discount rate is a measure of someone’s impulsiveness.
Commenting on the findings, Professor Tunney said: “The results showed that children living in the most deprived areas had significantly higher discount rates than children living in the least deprived areas, regardless of age or intelligence, indicating that deprivation was the causal factor in the children’s choice. “This preference for immediate outcomes is a stable personality trait that remains constant throughout a person’s life.”
However, in the most recent study published by the Royal Society, the research team evaluated impulsivity in over 1,000 older persons aged 50 to 90. The study discovered that older persons living in the most destitute regions preferred smaller-sooner financial rewards, much as the children in the first study. It was also discovered that a person’s work indicated the decisions they made. Adults working in technical or regular activities, such as mechanics or cleaners, preferred to get lesser sums of money rather than wait for greater sums, when compared to persons working in professional occupations, such as engineers or scientists.
Professor Tunney added: “These findings are concerning because impulsivity doesn’t just predict obesity. These findings tell us a lot about why people living in poorer areas tend to be unhealthier than people living in wealthy areas.”
“People who experience deprivation as children are more likely to choose to do things that, although they might be pleasurable in the short term, are unhealthy in the long run. This includes overeating, taking drugs, smoking cigarettes and gambling. “We know too, that impulsivity can help to explain why some people go on to become addicts, while other people can avoid some of the more harmful effects of drugs and alcohol.”
“Deprivation is one of many factors that can lead to impulsive behaviour throughout a person’s lifetime. Genetics also plays a role in impulsivity. Policymakers can’t do anything about a person’s genes but they can influence the nation’s long-term mental and physical health by minimising child poverty. Failing to do so will have long-term implications for the children living through today’s cost of living crisis.”