A new study suggests that people in poverty can’t help it – at least, not as much as the public might think.

The study, published in the journal Science, details how poverty causes a strain on the mind. Being poor and dealing with all the pressures that come with poverty takes a lot of brainpower and can exhaust people. As a result, they have less energy to make wise choices, which means they might stay in poverty longer because of bad decisions.

In fact, researchers say poverty can even lower a person’s IQ level by 13 points. It impairs the brain the same way it might to lose a full night of sleep.

What’s even more incredible: those lost abilities – the person’s original IQ, for example – return after the person is no longer in poverty.

University of British Columbia professor Jiaying Zhao co-authored the study as a Princeton University graduate student. Says Zhao:

You are captured by these monetary issues — how to pay rent, how to pay bills. As a result, you’re less attentive to other problems. You neglect other things in life that deserve your attention.

Clients have told me the same thing when they come in to see me about filing bankruptcy. They feel so tired and ashamed. They’re worried about medical bills, student loans, their children or grandchildren, and so much more.

Perhaps that’s how you feel. This study should come as good news: it’s normal to feel as exhausted as you do.

If you have bills you can’t pay that are wearing you down, please contact me today. I’d be happy to talk about your situation with you for free and help you figure out how to get everything under control.

(Photo: Jay Lopez)