Sunday, December 23, 2018

The Social Determinants of Chronic Diseases

Education and social conditions determine the quality of life. The place we are born, grow, work, and live, determines our attitude and ability to maintain health, or proneness to disease. The World Health Organization confirms the significant social element of diseases. Several theories try to explain the determinants of disease.

Life Course Theory recognizes the accumulation of socioeconomic conditions over the life course. The life-course theory considers how the social and material environment, income inequality, stress, nutrition, lifestyles, gene-environment interaction, public safety, and various other factors determine health. Socioeconomic advantages over a person’s lifetime lead to better elderly health.

Fundamental Cause Theory: Socioeconomic status (SES) influences multiple diseases in multiple ways. For centuries, affluent people have lived longer and had better health. Socioeconomic resources, such as money, education, status, power, and social connections, can help protect one’s health. Lack of those resources promotes sickness and premature mortality. People with control over their lives typically feel good about themselves, cope with stress better, and have the capability and living situations to adopt healthy lifestyles. People in higher SES have a better chance of survival from preventable causes of death. Access to money, knowledge, power, prestige, and social connections help to maintain health.

Social Capital: Group/network memberships, including online groups and cybernetworks, provide social support and access to group resources in times of need. As a concept, social capital has both subjective (cognitive) and objective (structural) components. Objective elements are formed by law enforcement, emergency support and medical and social services. Personal elements are the feeling of belonging, which promotes a sense of well-being. The sense of belonging, shared norms, reciprocity, and trust, which affects health-related behaviors (e.g., tobacco and alcohol use, diet, exercise), education, and employment. Sharing and exchanging resources (e.g., caregiving, transportation to medical appointments, financial assistance to access medical services) also affects health and mitigates stress.

Social groups can achieve collectively health goals, such as passing a non-smoking rules, placement of bike lanes and forming farmers' markets, or drug prevention programs. They can distribute health-related information or health-promoting innovations. Social capital is vital for self-management of chronic disease, because it fosters adherence in care regimens. It can prevent or facilitate depression and other health-related behaviors. 

Social rules determine what is appropriate or inappropriate. Lifestyle choices and personal routines are characteristic of specific groups and classes. The collective behavior becomes part of the mental make-up, subconsciously directing attitude and behavior.

Health Lifestyle Theory: Your circumstances, such as age, gender, and race/ ethnicity; social networks (kinship, religion, politics, workplace, and others), and living conditions (e.g., quality of housing, access to essential utilities, neighborhood facilities, public safety) influence life choices. These determinants also govern our life's choices to achieve our goals. Choices and possibilities interact and form a disposition to act, leading to practices (action), such as alcohol use, smoking, dietary habits, and other health-related activities.

Conclusion: your social class can significantly influence your long-term health. It can make you sick and influence your life expectancy.

The above post has been based on the scientific study, The Social Determinants of Chronic Disease, supported by the National Institute of Health.

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