The social determinants of health (SDoH) are the non-medical factors that influence health outcomes. They are the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life. These forces and systems include economic policies and systems, development agendas, social norms, social policies and political systems.
The SDoH have an important influence on health inequities - the unfair and avoidable differences in health status seen within and between countries. In countries at all levels of income, health and illness follow a social gradient: the lower the socioeconomic position, the worse the health.
The following list provides examples of the social determinants of health, which can influence health equity in positive and negative ways:
Income and social protection
Unemployment and job insecurity
Working life conditions
Housing, basic amenities and the environment
Early childhood development
Social inclusion and non-discrimination
Access to affordable health services of decent quality
Research shows that the social determinants can be more important than health care or lifestyle choices in influencing health. For example, numerous studies suggest that SDH account for between 30-55% of health outcomes. In addition, estimates show that the contribution of sectors outside health to population health outcomes exceeds the contribution from the health sector.
Jessian L. Muñoz, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H.
Providing optimal care to the patients of our community requires identifying and addressing the social determinants of health that impact them daily .