Socio-Cultural Issues in Health/Illness
Our general health status results from an interplay between numerous factors referred to as determinants of health. These determinants are categorized into biological, economic, behavioral, social, and cultural factors. Most people think that their health is solely influenced by genes and behaviors. But while genes and behaviors like what you eat, whether you smoke, or workout determine how healthy you are, social-cultural aspects of your life also have a large bearing on your health.
Social-cultural determinants of health are the conditions and factors in our immediate environments, such as where we live, work, and socialize. Some common social factors that affect our health include education, economic status, incomes, housing, and healthcare access. Culture affects how we perceive health, illnesses, and other aspects of health. It also affects how we experience and express pain, where we seek health care, and the types of treatment we choose.
- Education. Education opens up our minds and provides us with the knowledge we need to make sound and informed decisions about our health. Educated people generally live a longer and healthier life than uneducated people. This is because they are more likely to engage in healthy habits like exercising, eating healthy foods, and seeking doctors’ opinions on health issues. Educated people are also less likely to participate in unhealthy behaviors like smoking. They also tend to have higher incomes, which promotes better living, among other benefits.
- People on the higher income spectrum are healthier than those on the lower-income end. Money enables people to live in safe neighborhoods, purchase fresh and healthy foods, and access things and places like gyms and recreational opportunities. On the other hand, poor people struggle to access even basic healthy meals and often survive on unhealthy living habits like processed fast-food meals.
- People who live in poor conditions are exposed to numerous conditions like pollution, violence, and crime that negatively affect their health. Other housing conditions, like pests and mold, can also affect the health of the inhabitants.
- Access to health care. People with health insurance can easily access quality health care. They are also more likely to seek preventative care that lowers the chances of developing chronic illnesses. Access also entails the means of transport and the language barrier. Inability to access timely health care can seriously affect the health of an individual.
Other social-cultural factors that influence health include religious values, sexual identification, family and social support, gender, occupation, and cultural values. Understanding how all these factors affect health enables us to take the right steps and make informed decisions towards improving our health and the health of the community at large.
Chin, Vivien Yew Wong, and Noor Azlan Mohd Noor. “Sociocultural determinants of health and illness: A theoretical inquiry.” Geografia-Malaysian Journal of Society and Space 10, no. 1 (2017).
Garcia-Alexander, Ginny, Hyeyoung Woo, and Matthew J. Carlson. “Introduction to Sociology and Sociocultural Impacts on Health.” In Social Foundations of Behavior for the Health Sciences, pp. 1-15. Springer, Cham, 2017.
Liamputtong, Pranee. “Health, illness and wellbeing: An introduction to social determinants of health.” Social Determinants of Health (2019): 1-28.