Throughout the course of their life, individuals will experience varying degrees of health and well being. An individual’s health is measured based on the different types of conditions and resources that they are exposed to. These conditions and resources can be identified through what is called The Social Determinants of Health (SDOH). SDOH are used to identify the health status of an individual, community and population. The SDOH covers a broad range of measures that include income, housing and environmental factors.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the SDOH are defined as “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” (WHO, 2015) Without apt income, housing and environmental factors to assist in achieving and maintain ideal health, the health status of an individual will gradually decrease. Overtime, this decrease can trigger a series of unfavourable circumstances that will result in the downward spiral of health resulting in negative outcomes.
In order to maintain the ideal health status, an individual is to have a stable source of income. Income is considered one of the most important SDOH as it is one of the main factors in order survive in our modern monetary based society. Individuals or populations who have access to a high or stable source of income are generally associated with better health (WHO, 2015). Furthermore have a greater advantage on the socioeconomic status ladder in regards to work, education and housing. Lower down the status ladder, individuals or populations that have low or no income, have a lower socioeconomic status.
Therefore, are at a greater risk of negative health impacts through implications such as lack of education and poverty. Education is an important element that an individual requires in order to succeed in gaining stability. Without education, an individual lacks competency in attaining a career of which they can further develop their health status and resources. The career rewards them with the ability to achieve a steady income. Without a steady income, an individual is at risk of losing access to a variety of amenities such as; medical services, safe housing and nutrition.
This loss of income due to not gaining an education can lead to the individual descending into poverty. Poverty is one of the top leading issues in the world that increases the likelihood of incurring a wide range of serious health associated issues. Poverty occurs when an individual or population have little or no income in a difficult environment. This results in the individual becoming unable to access basic human requirements such as clean water, food, medical services, education and shelter (CDC, 2014).
When these basic human needs aren’t met a wide range of health issues and diseases are introduced to the individual or population such as diarrhoea, tuberculosis, malaria, pneumonia and general poor hygiene. These diseases are easily preventable, but are usually caused by a lack of resources such as a secure home or shelter that has access to suitable facilities such as; water, food and sanitary amenities. This leads into the next SDOH, which is housing. Housing is regarded as an important SDOH as poor housing or lack of access to housing can lead to a wide range of health issues that can impact on an individual or family.
The definition of housing is “the provision of accommodation”. (Oxford Dictionary, 1884). Having access to a house, or a secure shelter to live is considered one of the most fundamental necessities to a stable lifestyle (Queensland Government, 2015) Without the presence of a home or shelter, an individual is more susceptible to poorer health as opposed to those with adequate housing. There are varieties of different housing related issues that can negatively impact on the health of an individual or community.
A few examples of these issues are affordability and housing conditions. The affordability of housing poses as a major issue for many individuals, families or communities as the cost of owning or renting a home continues to rise rapidly in price compared to the rate in which income is being earned. (Australian Government, 2008). The continuous increase in cost can introduce many negative factors on an individual’s health such as stress, mental health issues and social isolation that can trigger premature death.
Many individuals discover they are unable to keep up with the rising cost of housing, which results in the individual finding accommodation in housing in poorly designed buildings with unsavoury living conditions. The design of a house or shelter is critical to individuals, communities or populations as those who are exposed to poor housing conditions are considered to be more susceptible to suffer from physical and mental health problems (Queensland Government).
Examples of what diseases an individual can contract due to poor housing conditions are diseases such as tuberculosis, cardiovascular disease, asthma or housing related injuries. These disease or injuries are due to poor ventilation, indoor air pollution and unstable infrastructure ( WHO, 2015). The environment in which an individual’s housing is located is also considered crucial as they can be exposed to various environmental factors that can cause serious health problems.
Environment is considered a SDOH as an individual’s health can be affected by the location in which they live and the environmental factors they are exposed to. These environmental factors can negatively impact the health of an individual or community through various situations such as location and work. The location in which an individual lives impacts health in a number of different ways. This includes living in rural areas as opposed to living in suburban/ metropolitan areas.
Individuals based in rural areas lack access to quality health care services, housing and jobs. Limited access to these amenities can cause negative indirect impacts on an individual’s health status such as mental health issues, social isolation and shorter lifespan’s. Metropolitan areas also provide many negative health impacts even though it provides better resources and support compared to rural areas. Individuals that reside in these areas are more inclined to develop diseases such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease and respiratory diseases (Friel, 2010).
These diseases are trigger through various lifestyle influences such as poor diet, lack of exercise, air pollution, smoking, excessive consumption of alcohol and substance abuse. In terms of work, individuals in metropolitan areas are more likely to have exposure to more job opportunities, which boosts their chances of income compared to rural areas. In rural area’s, work is a major issue as there is not enough job opportunities to account for the number of people living in the rural communities. With lack of job opportunities or skills gained hrough education, individuals are unable to source income, thus falling lower on the socioeconomic ladder.
This can lead to a number of issues such as depression, alcoholism, suicide and homelessness (National Rural Health Alliance INC. , 2015). Individuals that have gained a job in rural areas are more susceptible to diseases such as respiratory disease, skin disease and cardiovascular disease due to working in jobs involving mining, building or chemicals in order to gain income (National Rural Health Alliance INC, 2015) In the end, these factors all contribute to attaining an ideal level of health.
It is apparent that income, housing and environment are directly linked to one another. Without the stability of income, an individual is exposed to a lack of education. This, in turn, assists the individual to gain access to a career. Without the presence of an income, the individual is deprived of their basic human needs such as housing. Without income, the individual is unable to afford adequate housing, which forces them to descend into unfavourable living conditions. Unfavourable living conditions links into the environment in which the individual is exposed to, such as location.
Location is not only limited to the area, but includes the nation as a whole. Remote and suburban areas offer different lifestyles but it is the nation that defines the resources of the area. When linked together, these factors all contribute, define and measure the health conditions of individuals, communities and populations in an appropriate and reliable extent through the use of the SDOH. This confirms that the SDOH play an important factor in the health status of individuals and action must be taken in order to help individuals affected by these determinants.