Health Determinants

Health Determinants


It is a well-documented fact that, there are many factors that affect the health of communities and individuals (Fisher & Baum, 2010). Fisher and Baum’s article highlights that, factors such as the state of the physical environment, social environment,  income, education level, and genetic are important determinants of health. In his research, Oka (2011) affirms that health determinants are factors or aspects that affect or contribute to the well-being of an individual. This research emphasizes that, it is important to understand the determinants of health to fully understand what contributes to good health. With this in mind, this research provides a comprehensive analysis of how physical environments and social environments have both been found to be important determinants of health. In discussing, the paper will highlight how the two factors do jointly affect the health status.

First, physical environments have been found to be an important determinant of health in that it has control to dictate how an individual lives. Physical environment or also total ecology represents where an individual lives along with his or her crowding conditions. Physical environment affects the quality of life in that, if one lives in a healthy and favourable environment he or she is likely to live a healthy life. The physical environment such as clean air, safe water, safe houses, communities, and good roads all contribute to or enhance good health. People living in safe communities, safe houses, and have access to clean water are healthier than those without. Secondly, social environment plays a crucial role in determining the health of an individual. For instance, a great support from communities, friends, family is often linked to a healthy lifestyle. Traditions, customs, and beliefs of the community and family also affect the health outcome.

It is important to acknowledge that, both physical environments and social environments determine how a patient respond to medication. Still, it affects how an individual deal with the challenges and stresses, which have control of health. As argued, Emine et al (2012) an individual living in a safe environment is more likely to be healthier than that living in an unsafe environment. Additionally, an individual with adequate social support from the community, friends, and family is more likely to live a healthy live or access best medication. According to Oka (2011), the social determinants of health represent both physical conditions and social factors. In other words, social determinants define where people live, are born, work, play, and interact with people.

To Shortt, Richardson, Mitchell & Pearce (2011), both physical and social health determinants have a huge impact on the quality of health outcome. Examples of social determinants include social interactions, social support, social attitudes and norms, exposure to social disorder, violence, and crime, and accessibility of resources to meet the needs of living a healthy lifestyle. Still, this represents socioeconomic conditions like poverty, public safety, and residential segregation among others. In summary, the physical determinants comprise natural environment such as plants, climate, or weather change, housing, neighborhoods, aesthetic elements like good benches, trees, and lighting, and physical barriers, particularly those with disabilities. According to Bell, Taylor & Marmot (2010), physical environments and social environments jointly affect health status in that better health outcome are made by the positive interaction and where an individual lives. For example, millions of people in the third world countries live in unsafe environments where pollution is a major concern. As a result, the environment auguments the prevalence of getting various diseases such as asthma. Poor social environment can also affect health in that limited access or lack of access to health services influences the health status of an individual. For instance, when an individual does not have adequate income to access health care he is more likely to die or severely suffer from the disease. Still, discrimination can still hinder health development.

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As indicated in the figure above, genes & biology and health behaviours account for a quarter of health population. Social determinants represent the largest healthy population and the remaining categories represent physical environment, social environment, and medical care. As indicated in the diagram, the social determinants of health interact and influence people behaviors. Specifically, the social environment is an important determinant of health in that it enhance the social patterning of illness, disease, and health.


To sum up, Witten et al (2012) argues that addressing physical environment and social environment is crucial to attaining health equity. When one lives in safe environments, communities, and surrounding this contributes to a healthy life. Social environment such as stigma, discrimination, racism, poverty, and unequal access to medical care are underlying factors that contribute to health inequities. Based on the fact that social environments and physical environments have both been found to be important determinants of health, health institutions, organizations, and education programs have been encouraged to address the underlying health determinants. This is because, a person living in an unsafe environment with no access to health care is more likely to live in an unsafe physical environment that contributes to poor health. With this in mind, it is evident that both physical environment and the social environment jointly affect health status.



Bell, R., Taylor, S., & Marmot, M. (2010). Global Health Governance: Commission on Social Determinants of Health and the Imperative for Change. Journal Of Law, Medicine & Ethics38 (3), 470-485. doi:10.1111/j.1748-720X.2010.00506.x

Emine Didem, E., Filiz, E., Orhan, O., Gulnur, S., & Erdal, B. (2012). Local decision makers’ awareness of the social determinants of health in Turkey: a cross-sectional study. BMC Public Health12 (1), 437-445. doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-437

Fisher, M., & Baum, F. (2010). The social determinants of mental health: implications for research and health promotion. Australian & New Zealand Journal Of Psychiatry44 (12), 1057-1063. doi:10.3109/00048674.2010.509311

Oka, M. (2011). Toward Designing an Environment to Promote Physical Activity. Landscape Journal30 (2), 280-298.

Shortt, N., Richardson, E., Mitchell, R., & Pearce, J. (2011). Re-engaging with the physical environment: a health-related environmental classification of the UK. Area43 (1), 76-87. doi:10.1111/j.1475-4762.2010.00960.x

Witten, K., Blakely, T., Bagheri, N., Badland, H., Ivory, V., Pearce, J., & … Schofield, G. (2012). Neighborhood Built Environment and Transport and Leisure Physical Activity: Findings Using Objective Exposure and Outcome Measures in New Zealand. Environmental Health Perspectives, 120 (7), 971-977. doi:10.1289/ehp.1104584

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