FAQ for Social Determinants of Health

Terms in this set (7)

Determinants of health are factors that contribute to a person's current state of health. These factors may be biological, socioeconomic, psychosocial, behavioral, or social in nature. Scientists generally recognize five determinants of health of a population [2, 3]:

Genes and biology: for example, sex and age
Health behaviors: for example, alcohol use, injection drug use (needles), unprotected sex, and smoking
Social environment or social characteristics: for example, discrimination, income, and gender
Physical environment or total ecology: for example, where a person lives and crowding conditions
Health services or medical care: for example, access to quality health care and having or not having insurance

Five major determinants of population health

Other factors that could be included are culture, social status, and healthy child development. Figure 1 represents rough estimates of how much each of the five determinants contributes to the health of a population. Scientists do not know the precise contributions of each determinant at this time.

As the figure shows, in theory, genes, biology, and health behaviors together account for about 25% of population health. Social determinants of health represent the remaining three categories of social environment, physical environment/total ecology, and health services/medical care. These social determinants of health also interact with and influence individual behaviors as well. More specifically, social determinants of health refer to the set of factors that contribute to the social patterning of health, disease, and illness.