The poor are disproportionately afflicted with a wide range of health problems, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, asthma, infant mortality, and dental disease. Sleep deficiency and disorders including sleep apnea also are particularly common among minority groups and those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, according to Harvard School of Public Health’s Michelle Williams, Stephen B. Kay Family Professor of Public Health and chair of the Department of Epidemiology. Sleep apnea causes breathing to briefly stop during sleep and can elevate risks for serious health problems, including heart failure and pregnancy complications. In an August 28, 2012 article on the Huffington Post, co-written by Harvard Medical School’s Susan Redline, Williams writes that the high prevalence of sleep apnea among the poor may be caused by exposure to air pollution, which can cause inflammation in the tissues near the throat.
Exposing the Roots of Health Disparities (Harvard Public Health Review)