We know that eating well, exercising, taking vitamins and visiting your doctor influence our health directly. But did you know social factors around us also affect our health? These social factors are known as social determinants of health and they have a significant impact on your well-being and lifespan.
Social determinants of health are conditions in the environments in which people are “born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks”, according to Healthy People 2020.
Healthy People 2020 highlights the importance of addressing the social determinants of health by including “Create social and physical environments that promote good health for all”. That is the goal of Sociants. To match an individual's social determinants with organizations that can provide the aid, resources or services they need.
If we can identify what social determinants affect us and our community, we may be able to live better and healthier lives.
Learn about five common social determinants that may be affecting you right now:
1. ZIP Code
Where you live affects everything from community resources to whether you can exercise safely, to your daily access to healthy food. That is why the ZIP code is one of the top three social health determinants, according to experts.
The interaction between human health and the environment has been extensively studied and environmental risks have been proven to significantly impact human health, either directly by exposing people to harmful agents, or indirectly, by disrupting life-sustaining ecosystems. Environmental hazards clearly affect individuals health. For example, asthma and allergies worsen if people breathe in dusty, dirty air. Drinking water from lead pipes and living between lead-painted walls exposes children to the risk of impaired brain development. Adults in high-lead settings are at increased risk for high blood pressure and kidney disease, according to the World Health Organization.
Social scientists have found that cultures that emphasize family ties show better mental health. Supportive parents and members of the extended family, such as grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, help children feel loved, confident, safe and secure.
Did you know your education level can have an effect on how healthy you are. Education gives you the tools you need to make good decisions about your health, since learning about health, diet and exercise are all part of a comprehensive education. People with less access to education tends to lead to unhealthy activities, such as smoking.
Obtaining more education reduces your risk of dying within the next five years by 1.8 percent, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. Because more education tends to lead to higher-paying jobs. These jobs often come with benefits, such as health insurance and healthier working conditions.
A person's income plays a major role in their health and directly affects their social conditions. For example, upper-class Americans are healthier than middle-class individuals, who in fact are healthier than those living in poverty. Income affects a person choice of neighborhood, which affects school choices, which affects education, and so on. "The greater one's income, the lower one's likelihood of disease and premature death”, explains the April 2015 Urban Institute report.