Social Determinants of Health
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.
Conditions (e.g., social, economic, and physical) in these various environments and settings (e.g., school, church, workplace, and neighborhood) have been referred to as “place.”
In addition to the more material attributes of “place,” the patterns of social engagement and sense of security and well-being are also affected by where people live. Resources that enhance quality of life can have a significant influence on population health outcomes. Examples of these resources include safe and affordable housing, access to education, public safety, availability of healthy foods, local emergency/health services, and environments free of life-threatening toxins.
Understanding the relationship between how population groups experience “place” and the impact of “place” on health is fundamental to the social determinants of health—including both social and physical determinants.
Examples of social determinants include:
Availability of resources to meet daily needs (e.g., safe housing and local food markets)
Access to educational, economic, and job opportunities
Access to health care services
Quality of education and job training
Availability of community-based resources in support of community living and opportunities for recreational and leisure-time activities
Social norms and attitudes (e.g., discrimination, racism, and distrust of government)
Exposure to crime, violence, and social disorder (e.g., presence of trash and lack of cooperation in a community)
Socioeconomic conditions (e.g., concentrated poverty and the stressful conditions that accompany it)
Access to mass media and emerging technologies (e.g., cell phones, the Internet, and social media)
Examples of physical determinants include:
Natural environment, such as green space (e.g., trees and grass) or weather (e.g., climate change)
Built environment, such as buildings, sidewalks, bike lanes, and roads
Worksites, schools, and recreational settings
Housing and community design
Exposure to toxic substances and other physical hazards
Physical barriers, especially for people with disabilities
Aesthetic elements (e.g., good lighting, trees, and benches)
By working to establish policies that positively influence social and economic conditions and those that support changes in individual behavior, we can improve health for large numbers of people in ways that can be sustained over time. Improving the conditions in which we live, learn, work, and play and the quality of our relationships will create a healthier population, society, and workforce.