Social Determinants of Health

Social determinants of health refer to the conditions that an individual works, lives, plays, and learns that affects a wide range of health and quality-of-life risks and outcomes, many of which have several mental health implications. The five key areas of social determinants of health are: healthcare access and quality, education access and quality, social and community context, economic stability, and neighborhood and built environment.


Healthcare Access and Quality: About 1 in 10 people living in the United States do not have health insurance. These people without health insurance are less likely to have a primary care provider, and may not be able to afford the health care treatments, services, and medications they need. This may lead to a development or increase in anxiety, as they may stress out over payments for necessary procedures or preventative care and treatment.


Education Access and Quality: People with higher levels of education have an increased likelihood of living a longer and healthier life. Children who experience forms of social discrimination, like bullying, have a greater chance of struggling with math and reading. These same children are also less likely to graduate from high school or pursue higher education. This is not only linked to having a lower likelihood of getting a safe and high-paying job, but it is also linked to having a greater chance of obtaining health problems, like heart disease and depression. Furthermore, the costs that come with attending college may lead to increased anxiety for low-income families or students that need to work several jobs and take out loans to pay for it themselves.


Social and Community Context: The relationships that people have with their family, friends, peers, co-workers, and community members have a large impact on their health and wellbeing. People living under a roof with challenging family dynamics are more likely to have depression or substance abuse problems in the long-run. People that face discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, or religion may begin to feel isolated and develop symptoms of anxiety and depression.


Economic Stability: Similar to the statistic about healthcare insurance, 1 in 10 people in the United States live in poverty. Many people have difficulty finding and keeping a job. People with disabilities, conditions, or injuries may also be limited in their ability to work. People with steady work and a steady income still cannot afford to live a healthy life. These feelings of uncertainty can be linked with anxiety and an increase in stress levels.


Neighborhood and Built Environment: The neighborhood that a person lives in can have a huge impact on their wellbeing and health. Many people happen to live in neighborhoods with high rates of violence and many health and safety risks. These types of environments may influence youth to engage in these destructive behaviors, leading to potential mental illnesses down the road.

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