A recent study conducted by a group of researchers from Finland, found that long-term poverty undermined many prerequisites for inclusion and well-being.
The research was carried out by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL). The results of the study were published in 'Journal of Social and Political Psychology'.
The social and psychological impacts of long-term poverty were examined in two studies analysing the follow-up material for 2006 and 2012 from the Everyday Experiences of Poverty writing competition.
"Long-lasting difficulties, such as low income, unemployment, uncertainty, addictions, pain and illnesses, can plunge a person into a vicious cycle where the force upholding life weakens. Participation in joint activities decreases and experiences of meaningfulness diminish," said Anna-Maria Isola, Research Manager at THL.
Planning for the future is difficult if you have to focus on simply making it through each day and anticipating the worst. In these circumstances you might not recognise positive opportunities available, nor will you strive for things that you find difficult to achieve.
The studies found key factors that supported people's ability to lead their own lives, strive for things that are important to them and make decisions that support their well-being.
These factors include the manageability and predictability of one's own life and the surrounding world, financial resources, a sense of belonging, equal opportunities for participation and experiencing meaning in life.
"When life has economic, social and psychological stability and room for manoeuvre, more positive opportunities will be seen instead of negative risks. A person experiences less feelings of worthlessness when they are able to live life according to their own liking, but also in line with the expectations of others," said Lotta Virrankari, a researcher at THL.
As its name suggests, social security provides security that was found to create faith in the future. At its best, Finnish social security was predictable, but social assistance and labour policy statements, in particular, were sometimes seen as erratic.
"There is a risk that in fear of losing subsidies people might not have the courage to, for example, participate in volunteer work, which would help them to stay in touch with the community and bring meaning to life. Participation in other joint activities might also gradually decrease, and eventually, uncertainty will undermine one's self-confidence," Isola described.
Research Professor Heikki Hiilamo at THL emphasised that the adequacy of social security must be assessed in relation to how well it enables the poorest to participate in the prevailing way of life.
"The opportunity to move around the city, participate in cultural events and even go out for dinner sometimes can create meaningful experiences that encourage people to improve their well-being."
However, social security and its related services alone cannot provide sufficient experiences of meaningfulness.
Open spaces and events, where it is easy to engage with others and where different people can meet and do things together, are also needed. Equal encounters also dismantle attitudes and beliefs that are harmful to the most vulnerable.