How bad is income inequality? Millennials may be the new peasants.

A new Credit Suisse report shows 27% growth since 2008 in the world’s wealth, with a disproportionately large share going to the already wealthy.

Unless you're one of a fortunate handful of people, it may surprise you to learn that the world's economy has not only recovered from the global financial meltdown of 2008, but has grown 27% since then, to $280 trillion, according to a new report from Credit Suisse Research Institute. (All graphics in this article are by Credit Suisse, and all figures are presented as USD or percentages.)


In the past 12 months in alone, it's grown by 6.4%.

Most of this growth has even been in the U.S., $8.5 trillion's worth out of the last year's $16.7 trillion.

Interestingly, in terms of household income, Poland's doing the best during this period.

Here's the distribution of money across the globe as it stands now.

So if so much of the world — and the U.S. in particular — is rolling in money, why doesn't life feel any easier for most of us? After all, Credit Suisse says there are 8,740,000 million new millionaires since 2008, and the average wealth per person has hit a new mean of $56,540.

The trick is in that word “mean." That average figure includes everyone, including the wealthiest people. And there's the troubling disconnect. It's a big one, and it's gotten worse since 2008. Right now just 1% of the world's population — the aforementioned rich — own just over half, 50.1%, of all of the world's wealth. That's up from 45.5% in 2001.

From 2000 to 2007, the wealth of the better-off half of the world grew by 7%, while everyone else's worth grew by 12%. But the crisis upset that balance, reducing the world's overall wealth by 12.6% and setting us down a path to ever-growing financial inequality during the recovery.

The report devotes an entire section to the disadvantages faced by those it calls the “unlucky millennials," especially those in North America. Entering the job market during the high-unemployment aftermath of 2008, this group, particularly in their 30s, is struggling with often back-breaking student debt.

The Credit Suisse report summarizes, “Millennials are doing less well than their parents at the same age, especially in relation to income, home ownership and other dimensions of well- being assessed in this report. While Millennials are more educated than preceding generations…we expect only a minority of high achievers and those in high- effectively overcome the 'millennial disadvantage.'"

For those who believe that more money for the top 1% means more jobs for everyone else, the Credit Suisse's report should be eye-opening. It clearly suggests otherwise, with this group only accelerating their own acquisition of wealth.

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An organism found in dirt may lead to an anxiety vaccine, say scientists

Can dirt help us fight off stress? Groundbreaking new research shows how.

University of Colorado Boulder
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  • The finding builds on the hygiene hypothesis, first proposed in 1989.

Are modern societies trying too hard to be clean, at the detriment to public health? Scientists discovered that a microorganism living in dirt can actually be good for us, potentially helping the body to fight off stress. Harnessing its powers can lead to a "stress vaccine".

Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder found that the fatty 10(Z)-hexadecenoic acid from the soil-residing bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae aids immune cells in blocking pathways that increase inflammation and the ability to combat stress.

The study's senior author and Integrative Physiology Professor Christopher Lowry described this fat as "one of the main ingredients" in the "special sauce" that causes the beneficial effects of the bacterium.

The finding goes hand in hand with the "hygiene hypothesis," initially proposed in 1989 by the British scientist David Strachan. He maintained that our generally sterile modern world prevents children from being exposed to certain microorganisms, resulting in compromised immune systems and greater incidences of asthma and allergies.

Contemporary research fine-tuned the hypothesis, finding that not interacting with so-called "old friends" or helpful microbes in the soil and the environment, rather than the ones that cause illnesses, is what's detrimental. In particular, our mental health could be at stake.

"The idea is that as humans have moved away from farms and an agricultural or hunter-gatherer existence into cities, we have lost contact with organisms that served to regulate our immune system and suppress inappropriate inflammation," explained Lowry. "That has put us at higher risk for inflammatory disease and stress-related psychiatric disorders."

University of Colorado Boulder

Christopher Lowry

This is not the first study on the subject from Lowry, who published previous work showing the connection between being exposed to healthy bacteria and mental health. He found that being raised with animals and dust in a rural environment helps children develop more stress-proof immune systems. Such kids were also likely to be less at risk for mental illnesses than people living in the city without pets.

Lowry's other work also pointed out that the soil-based bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae acts like an antidepressant when injected into rodents. It alters their behavior and has lasting anti-inflammatory effects on the brain, according to the press release from the University of Colorado Boulder. Prolonged inflammation can lead to such stress-related disorders as PTSD.

The new study from Lowry and his team identified why that worked by pinpointing the specific fatty acid responsible. They showed that when the 10(Z)-hexadecenoic acid gets into cells, it works like a lock, attaching itself to the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR). This allows it to block a number of key pathways responsible for inflammation. Pre-treating the cells with the acid (or lipid) made them withstand inflammation better.

Lowry thinks this understanding can lead to creating a "stress vaccine" that can be given to people in high-stress jobs, like first responders or soldiers. The vaccine can prevent the psychological effects of stress.

What's more, this friendly bacterium is not the only potentially helpful organism we can find in soil.

"This is just one strain of one species of one type of bacterium that is found in the soil but there are millions of other strains in soils," said Lowry. "We are just beginning to see the tip of the iceberg in terms of identifying the mechanisms through which they have evolved to keep us healthy. It should inspire awe in all of us."

Check out the study published in the journal Psychopharmacology.