Social mobility is bad for your health, reports the Tory press. Better stay put then!

Strange angle on study recycles an ancient lie about class


Old habits die hard. The Telegraph and the Daily Mail report that improving your material circumstances is bad for your health.

As the Telegraph puts it in its story, ‘Social climbing may make you old before your time’:

“Social mobility is frequently touted as something positive and desirable, but it could actually be bad for health, as study has suggested.”

(Headline and intro taken from print edition.)

The Mail, never one for hyperbole, says in its story, ‘Why being upwardly mobile can be bad for your health’:

“Poor teenagers who do well later in life age more quickly, research suggests.

As a result, they may die younger than classmates who didn’t try to better themselves.

It’s thought the strain of dragging themselves out of poverty is to blame.”

So, what is all this?

A study of young African-Americans from rural areas finds that youths with more ‘self-control’ are less aggressive, less likely to take drugs, and achieve more academically. However, their cells appear to age faster than their peers.

The Tory papers have decided on the angle, ‘social mobility is bad for your health’.

But this is an odd take on the evidence. Would it not make more sense to say, ‘Social deprivation is bad for your health’, or ‘Lack of support for poor youth is bad for their health’?

Or even, ‘class and race subordination, and the myth that people can drag themselves up by their bootstraps, is bad for your health’?

A bigger objection to this spin would be it seems to imply the safe option is to stay put, and be happy with your lot!

(Actually, wouldn’t remaining poor be even worse for your health?)

The way this story is packaged and delivered recycles the oldest conservative spin of all. It’s well summarised in these lines from a famous hymn:

The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,
God made them high and lowly,
And ordered their estate.

Reading these stories today, you can only sigh: ‘Plus ça change’.

Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow MediaWatch on Twitter

Read more: 

If the Tory press cares about women’s pay, why is it attacking trade unions?

Daily Mail swallows Osborne’s myth about women ‘winning’ in his budget

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9 Responses to “Social mobility is bad for your health, reports the Tory press. Better stay put then!”

  1. Matthew Blott

    I seriously think slavery might be a better economic model than the one we have.

  2. swat

    Odd that a sketch from TW3 50 years ago is still being used to illustrate class difference. When the Revolution come we’ll all be One Class, but will it be Upper Middle or Working?

  3. stevep

    It`s the model we`ve already got.

  4. Torybushhug

    The most contented long lived folk I’ve known tended not to be overly striving, but happy with thier lot. Not poor, but just very modestly comfortable. I was a striver type but decided it was bad for my sense of well being as I was constantly forcing myself to chase more. Now I’m much happier being content with that I have to a greater extent. I used to get heart jumps and all sorts before.

  5. Torybushhug

    Why do migrants keep comming then and not stopping in less slavish societies.

  6. Toryfugwit

    What do you middle-class lefties know? I grew up on a council estate and (with absolutely no lucky breaks) built a successful small business – I have experienced social mobility and can honestly say that it has completely screwed me up, it has filled me with negative feelings towards others. I am sickened that despite all my hardwork (yes my hardwork, I had no help) I cannot escape the lazy feckless scroungers I grew up with; they are my main customer base and the contempt I feel for them gnaws at my psyche. Resentment simmers inside me, this unrequited admiration I have for my grouse shooting buddies, why should it matter what school I went to… I will always be a chip-shop owning pleb to them, it sickens me… they all sicken me.

  7. stevep

    Migrants come here because they`re invited to. Mainly to fill the need for workers to pay taxes and pay for baby boomer era pensions. Probably also to alter the demographic profile of the UK and widen the Gene pool. It certainly needs it.
    Most migrants don`t care about the political system in the UK one way or another. They come here to earn relatively more money than their own economies currently allow them to.

  8. stevep

    Don`t worry and fret. When the left get into power, they`ll nationalise your line of work and you can rest easy knowing you can be a part of a society in which everyone plays a part and contributes towards the whole.
    Meanwhile you would probably be better off working in a chip shop or something. Much better for your sanity.
    While away your time when not working, reading old George Osborne budget speeches to amuse yourself, or extracts perhaps, from the smallest book ever written: “How Margaret Thatcher changed Britain for the better”!
    Don`t be shy, you can`t fool us…… There`s a good socialist lurking in you somewhere!

  9. stevep

    Traditional British right-wing social mobility policy – Know your place!

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