[Excerpt from feature article by Kate Farrish, Connecticut Health Investigative Team, featuring analysis of the DataHaven Community Wellbeing Survey and appearing in the CT Mirror and elsewhere]:
In West Haven, 24% of white residents reported their health as fair or poor, a rate worse than whites statewide and in New Haven.
Fifty miles east, 19% of white New London residents reported feeling depressed or hopeless, higher numbers than statewide and in Bridgeport.
And 39% of white New Britain residents reported that financially, they were just getting by or were worse off. That’s higher than in Hartford and statewide.
A C-HIT analysis of the results from the recent DataHaven Community Wellbeing Survey found that residents in a number of midsize, blue-collar cities reported lower health ratings than residents of the state’s largest cities. The results are likely influenced by economic status, upending the long-held belief that urban centers, with concentrations of poverty, have the lowest health ratings. DataHaven, a New Haven-based nonprofit, received 16,000 responses statewide.
Ratings of fair or poor health were especially pronounced among whites in the midsize cities, ranking them lower than whites in the large cities and even lower than nonwhites in their own communities.
The findings ring true for officials in the midsize cities, including state Rep. Robert Sanchez, D-New Britain.
Besides the poor, “white middle-class people are going through stresses, too,’’ he said. “Some have told me that they skip going to the doctor because they can’t afford it.”
The analysis also found that whites in several midsize cities were more likely to have diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease than whites in larger cities.
Salvatore Bonito, 77, from West Haven, said he’s trying to eat right and walk every day. “I’m a diabetic and I have a problem with my feet swelling up, but I do the best I can,” he said.
John Davis, 55, an Army veteran, recently moved from a downtown New Britain motel to the YMCA, lost part of one leg to poor circulation in 2008 and has diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. “I see a lot of people who are homeless or depressed down here,’’ he said in New Britain’s Central Park. “That’s not my life. I need for nothing.”
Davis’s optimism wasn’t reflected in the survey results, however. White residents in midsize cities were more likely to report feeling hopeless or depressed than whites statewide, with financial stress appearing to be a factor. Age alone does not fully explain the lower ratings.
Residents and officials in New Britain, West Haven and New London attributed the ratings to the opioid crisis, low wages, substandard housing and transportation, and a familiar squeeze on the working poor.
For this story, Matthew Kauffman contributed data analysis and James Costa contributed reporting.