Examining the Relationship Between Socioeconomic Status and Health

Health is a condition where sickness and infirmity are totally absent. In simple terms, health is the absence of ill-health. A wide variety of different definitions have been use for such purposes over the years. One of them is that the quality of health is determined by five interrelated factors: physical attractiveness, social competence, purpose of life, psychological stability, and personal relationships.


Many people argue that health disparities may be caused by the existence of social, economic, and biological differences among people. The presence of these differences could be attributed to the unequal distribution of power, education, opportunity, and status, among individuals. In most of the developed countries, people live in a society with some form of collectivism. Consequently, health disparities are manifested at birth, as children who reside in the societies with the most liberal political systems tend to be healthier and live longer than those who reside in more conservative societies. Conversely, health disparities also exist between men and women and between the rural and urban dwellers.

These social determinants may account for some of the differences in health status, but they cannot be regarded as the only determinant. As noted above, health is determined by five important determinants. However, it is possible to modify the five determinants to reduce the size of the overall effect of the other determinants on health status, thereby enhancing the ability of the system to monitor health progress.

One of the best ways to address the health status issues is to change the lifestyle of an individual. For instance, people with a higher educational level and greater social competence tend to live longer and have less health conditions and diseases. On the other hand, those with lower socioeconomic status and greater disability are exposed to more stress, have greater mental stresses, and have a greater tendency to develop diseases and health conditions associated with old age.

In addition, developed countries have a much greater health problems related to smoking and consumption of alcohol, which are associated with increased risk of death. In developed countries, there is also a much greater exposure to secondhand smoke. Thus, occupational health and safety practices need to be improved in developed countries in order to protect workers from such health problems as lung cancer. Moreover, United States has a greater tendency to experience depression, substance abuse, and obesity-which all are associated with poor work-related health problems. These problems can lead to reduced productivity, reduced sales, and employee turnover.

Socioeconomic status is another important determinant of health. In the United States and other developed countries, the poor socioeconomic status is associated with higher levels of both stress and depression. Thus, improving socioeconomic status is one of the means of reducing both stress and depression, and improving overall health. A better socioeconomic status is likely to reduce the burden of chronic disease, reduce the odds of disability and mortality, and improve overall life expectancy. Socioeconomic status is likely to affect health through diet, exercise, and other lifestyle choices. The improved socioeconomic status is likely to affect physical health more than emotional health; thus, the combined measures of diet, exercise, and lifestyle choices should be considered in improving the overall health of an individual.