What are Social Determinants of Health?

Social determinants of health are an underlying cause of today’s major societal health dilemmas such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and depression.

What are Social Determinants of Health?

Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) are factors that influence your health outcomes but are not directly related to being physically sick. The World Health Organization (WHO) offers this definition of social determinants of health: “The conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age. These circumstances are shaped by the distribution of money, power, and resources at global, national and local levels.” These conditions are responsible for health inequities among different groups of people based on social and economic class, gender, and ethnicity.

Social determinants of health are an underlying cause of today’s major societal health dilemmas such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and depression. How can you address social determinants of health to improve your overall health? Your health is determined by the choices you make, some of which cannot be directly controlled by you. Governmental policies, availability of healthcare, individual behavioral choices, and biological and genetic factors are notable determinants of health.

Here are some examples of what social determinants of health are

  1. Income level
  2. Educational opportunities
  3. Occupation, employment status, and workplace safety
  4. Gender inequity
  5. Racial segregation
  6. Food insecurity and inaccessibility of nutritious food choices
  7. Access to housing and utility services
  8. Early childhood experiences and development
  9. Social support and community inclusivity
  10. Crime rates and exposure to violent behavior
  11. Availability of transportation
  12. Neighborhood conditions and physical environment
  13. Access to safe drinking water, clean air, and toxin-free environments
  14. Recreational and leisure opportunities

Research shows that social determinants can affect your overall health a lot more than health care or lifestyle choices. SDOH is found in studies to be accountable for 30-55% of health outcomes. This means that someone's background and inequities can affect their overall health a lot more than others. Healthcare leaders are trying to reduce health inequity by focusing on the social determinants of health and to take action to improve the conditions of people’s environments. It is important to understand your social determinants and to care for your mental and social health to decrease your risk of chronic conditions.

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