Social Determinants of Health – familydoctor.org

There are many factors that influence our health. These factors are known as health determinants. One type of health determinant is what is in our genes and our biology. Another determinant is our individual behavior, which includes the decisions we make, such as smoking, exercise habits or the types of foods we eat. A third determinant of our health is a broader set of influences (forces and systems) that shape the conditions of daily life. Racism, social norms, social policies, economic systems, and political systems are some of these forces and systems. Many people assume that their health is a result of their genes, their behaviors, and how often they get sick or go to the doctor. But it’s not just how you live that determines your health. Social and physical environments also have a great impact on our health. These are called social determinants of health.

The social determinants of health

The social determinants of health are the conditions in which we live, learn, work and play. These conditions can influence the health and well-being of you and your community. They can include your educational level, your exposure to violence, the way your community is designed, and whether you have access to health care. These factors affect your ability to adopt healthy behaviors and this affects your health.

Below are some examples of important social factors that can influence your health.

Education

People who have more education are more likely to live longer. They are more likely to participate in healthy activities such as exercising and seeing their doctor regularly. They are statistically less likely to engage in unhealthy activities, such as smoking.

Education also tends to lead to better-paying jobs. These often come with benefits, such as health insurance, healthier working conditions, and the opportunity to make connections with other people. All of these things add up to better health.

Income

The amount of money you earn influences your health. People with higher incomes tend to be healthier and live longer than people with lower incomes. They are more likely to live in safe neighborhoods. They have more access to grocery stores and healthy foods. They generally have more access to safe spaces for exercise or other activities.

People with low incomes are more likely to live in a community of poverty. They are more likely to encounter situations that can lead to health problems. These may include:

  • Unsafe housing
  • Challenges to getting healthy foods
  • Less time for exercise or physical activity.

Having lower incomes also affects the ability to have affordable insurance and health care. This can affect how often you go to the doctor, which can have a direct effect on your health.

Accommodation

Where you live has a significant impact on your health. People who are continually exposed to poor living conditions have a higher risk of developing health problems. These may include:

  • Pests
  • Mold
  • Structural problems
  • Toxins in the home

It is important that your home is safe and free from hazards like these. Housing can contribute to your health when it gives you a safe place to be.

Neighborhood conditions are an important part of housing and can also affect your health. A neighborhood free of violence, crime and pollution provides children and adults with a safe place to engage in physical activity. A home near supermarkets makes it easier for families to buy and eat healthy foods. A thriving neighborhood offering jobs, transportation and good schools.

Access to health care

How easy it is for you to access medical care is a big determinant of your health. If you have health insurance, you are more likely to visit your doctor regularly. These trips may include screenings and preventive care that prevent you from developing chronic diseases. Regular medical care also allows you to see your doctor to monitor any current medical conditions and prevent them from getting worse.

But not everyone has access to health insurance or easy access to care. Some people don’t have transportation to go to the doctor. Some can’t afford it. Others speak a different language. All of these things can prevent someone from getting the medical care they need. This can cause a delay in treating preventable health problems.

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