Why do people help the sick but not the unemployed?

London, May 27 (IANS) Have you ever wondered why any talk of giving money to the unemployed often triggers a political storm whereas increase in healthcare costs often earn laurels? The answer, say researchers, can be found deep in our psychology, where powerful intuitions lead us to view illness as the result of bad luck and worthy of help.

People intuitively believe that those who fall ill are unlucky, while unemployed people have brought it on themselves, the study found.

Using techniques to uncover people’s implicit intuitions, the researchers explored the fundamental differences behind our attitudes towards unemployment benefits and healthcare.

According to the researchers, the differences may be found in the evolutionary history of our species.

Unemployment came about as a result of the industrialisation, while illness is something the human species has faced for millions of years.

“For millions of years, a need for health care reflected accidents such as broken legs or random infections. Evolution could therefore have built our psychology to think about illnesses in this way, as something we have no control over,” said one of the researchers Michael Bang Petersen, professor in political science at Aarhus University in Denmark.

“People everywhere seem to have this deep-seated intuition that ill people are unfortunate and deserve to be helped,” he noted.

The researchers did research in Denmark, the US and Japan and found that everywhere people intuitively believed that people who fall ill are unlucky, while unemployed people have brought it on themselves.

“When it comes to healthcare, everyone seem united in the belief that people who are ill are unlucky and need help,” he said.

The findings appeared in the American Journal of Political Science.

“This means that the policies in the areas of health care and unemployment are very different, as we all more or less agree on the goal in healthcare, while we deeply disagree on whether or not unemployed people deserve help,” the researcher said.

–IANS

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