How Can Social Environment Factors Affect Health -Everything You Should Know

Posted March 4, 2020 by Clint Kelly - See Editorial Guidelines

Many people that want to be healthier, struggle to get on the right track due to a variety of factors. One of these factors is the social environment of an individual. Believe it or not, social environment factors affect health a great deal.

How Can Social Environment Factors Affect Health? An individual’s social environment can negatively affect a person’s health leading to obesity, mental health problems, and a higher risk of diseases. Typically, those that are lower on the social ladder are twice as likely to develop a health condition. A poor social environment can make a person feel anxious and stressed, which in the long-term can lead to physical medical conditions. 

Social environment factors are not the only aspects of one’s life to consider when determining the risk for health conditions. However, the social environment is often overlooked.

So, in this article, we’ll discuss what social environment factors include and how they can impact one’s health.

Social Environment Factors

A social environment has to do with the culture and relationships that surround an individual. These factors include the type of neighborhood one lives in, how much money a person makes, the education one has, or the access a person has to specific resources.

Occupation & Income Status

How Can Social Environment Factors Affect Health

A person’s occupation and income status are social environment factors that can weigh heavily on an individual.

A person that has a low-income occupation may not be able to afford certain aspects that keep an individual healthy. This may include clean housing and nutritious foods that are typically more costly.

Unfortunately, many people have defined themselves around the type of job they have or how much money they make. For example, some may believe that the higher your salary, the higher your level of importance is.

On top of this, those that tend to have higher salaries only surround themselves with people that have a similar income. The same is true for the person that has a lower income. We tend to surround ourselves with others that are on the same playing field as us.

Therefore, our diversification is limited. This creates a culture that can be closed-minded and limits our social relationships to a certain type of people.

Our limited diversification and closed-mindedness then bleed into other aspects of our social environment. Eventually, this can lead to the development of a whole community that has a low-income status.

Education

Living in areas where the social climate is not healthy can lead to a decline in literacy. The school systems may not be structured well, or the classroom environment may not be conducive to learning. Government funding for the school may also be limited, which limits educational resources the school has to offer. This, ultimately, leads to a lack of education.

One of the problems with poor social environments is that the factors tend to be interconnected and related. For example, a poor school system that is not doing well at educating students results in a lack of ability to acquire a well-paying career. Students may not receive a quality life-skill, resulting in a low-income occupation.

You will see later in this article just how these social environment factors affect health.

Family & Friends

How Can Social Environment Factors Affect Health

One’s family and friends are other factors that play into social environment and health.

The people that we are surrounded by often define the culture that we are raised in. Our culture often determines our mindset, and in turn, our futures. A poor home environment can have serious long-term effects on a child.

As mentioned above, all of these environmental factors are interconnected. Therefore, a family’s economic status more than likely determines how a child is raised, which determines the cultural dynamic of the family.

Parents with lower incomes are more likely to be stressed, resulting in less responsiveness. On top of this, a child raised in a lower-income family is less likely to have proper materials conducive to learning and developing properly.

Research suggests that poor home life can result in a child having behavioral and developmental problems later in life. Longer-term studies have indicated that a poor home environment for a child may be linked to a lower chance of high school graduation, as well as a low-income career.

Beyond the family dynamic, is the social network an individual has. This includes the type of friends a person will surround themselves with.

We all know just how influential friends are in our lives, and this can lead to decisions that impact our health in both positive and negative ways.

Access to Healthcare

Access to healthcare or related healthcare needs is considered a social environment factor that affects individuals all over.

Different aspects can limit a person’s access to healthcare. This may include costs, no insurance, or someone’s physical location.

In 2018 nearly 28 million nonelderly people in the U.S did not have health insurance. The main reasoning behind this is the high cost of health insurance. This environmental factor goes back to the occupation and income status of a person. An individual may not have an occupation that provides quality health insurance, or they do not receive enough compensation to afford the insurance.

Physical factors may inhibit a person from gaining proper access to healthcare, such as where a person lives. Those that live in rural areas may not have services or resources to provide them with transportation to get to the proper health facility.

Without access to healthcare, an individual will face a higher risk of health conditions and complications.

Social Environment and Weight Gain

Study’s have found that obesity is more prevalent among lower-income communities. There are a few reasons to back this claim up.

The first being that those in these lower-income neighborhoods cannot purchase nutritious foods. Healthier foods typically cost more than foods that have low quality. Therefore, fast food may be the only viable option for some families.

How Can Social Environment Factors Affect Health

Fast foods are, generally, high in carbs, sodium, and unhealthy fats while not containing the proper amount of protein. Consuming fast foods often can lead to weight gain, as well as other health issues. Fast food restaurants are cheap and easily accessible, making it difficult to turn down when you have other financial responsibilities to take care of.

The second potential reason social environment factors affect health through weight gain is the access to parks and recreational facilities. Lower-income neighborhoods may lack parks and fields that allow exercise. Thus, resulting in less physical activity and fewer calories burned that would typically help maintain weight at a healthy level.

Education regarding nutrition and exercise is also not always taught. If students do not have this education in their schools, then they have no idea how or what to apply to their lives when it comes to diet and exercise.

One other possible social environment factor that could lead to obesity is the access a community has to fully stocked grocery stores. Not everyone owns a car or can drive. So, without having a full-service grocery store nearby, it makes it challenging to get the proper foods one needs to stay healthy.

Social Environment and Mental Health

Mental health problems have been the topic of many discussions recently. I believe that social environment factors affect mental health more than we know.

One reasoning behind this is the social network of an individual. There are two issues to consider here. The first being, if a person is diagnosed with depression, then they will tend to stray away from social interactions. They may avoid spending quality time with family and friends, which can lead to a deeper depressed state.

On the other hand, an individual may be diagnosed with a taboo illness. This may include diseases such as HIV or even diabetes. Depending on the age group and the type of relationships an individual has, this may lead to changes in one’s social network. The change in social networks can result in a loss of friends, causing an individual to feel depressed in some ways.

How Can Social Environment Factors Affect Health

The other way social environment influences our mental health is home life. Children, at a very young age, are like sponges and soak in everything surrounding them at home. Therefore, a stressful home life can have detrimental effects on a child’s mental health long-term.

A child that is raised in a home of low economic status may have behavioral issues down the road. This may be due to parents being stressed due to financial obligations and showing less responsiveness to their child. The brain development of the child can then become affected.

More things to consider include the influence of one’s work on his or her mental state. A stressful job that requires long hours and offers minimal compensation can significantly impact one’s mood. Over time this can lead to potential behavioral changes.

In turn, the behavioral changes of a parent affects the home life for a child. And as mentioned above, the home life and family culture often determines the mental well being of a child. You can now see how many social environment factors are connected, and the effects can be cyclical.

Social Environment and Disease Onset

Those in a poor social environment may be at a higher risk of having diseases. Multiple factors can be at play here that revolve around one’s social environment.

The first being a lack of resources to maintain health. A family in a poor social environment may not have the income necessary to purchase over the counter medications that can prevent some illnesses, such as the common cold. This means that prescription medications that are stronger and provide very specific benefits may also be too expensive.

Without proper medication, a patient may suffer severe symptoms that can typically be prevented. This can result in the progression of certain diseases leading to more health complications.

Disease onset may also be inevitable, depending on one’s living conditions. Those in more impoverished social environments may have homes that do not have access to clean water or sanitation.

Families may also lack the resources to make home repairs. Therefore, a home may have water leaking in, which if left unfixed, can lead to mold. The mold can result in skin irritations, allergies, and effects on those with asthma.

Conclusion

Poverty is a problem across the globe, and there has yet to be a solution to the problem. One thing is for certain. Poor social environmental factors can have detrimental effects on health. Based on research and studies, it appears that poverty and health conditions go hand in hand.

We hope this has provided you with helpful information in understanding how social environment factors affect health.

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