Social Determinants of Health are the complex circumstances in which individuals are born and live that impact their health. The World Health Organization (WHO) offers this definition of social determinants of health:

“ The conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age.”

The social determinants of health are the economic and social conditions that influence individual and group differences in health status.

The distributions of social determinants are often shaped by public policies that reflect prevailing political ideologies of the area.

These social circumstances create societal stratification and are responsible for health inequities among different groups of people based on social and economic class, gender, and ethnicity.

These five key areas of social determinants include:
  1. Economic Stability
  2. Education
  3. Social and Community Context
  4. Health and Health Care
  5. Neighborhood and Built Environment

There are two broad types of health determinants that influence health and can lead to health inequities these are :

  • Structural determinants
  • Intermediary determinants

Structural determinants refer to the socio-economic and political context in which a person is born and lives in these include governance.

These factors can determine and lead to the unequal distribution of material and monetary resources which shapes a person's socio-economic position.

The socio-economic position is determined by a number of factors such as education occupation income gender race or ethnicity and social class.

The socio-economic position in turn affects the Intermediary determinants of health. These include material circumstances like the quality of housing.

The financial means to buy healthy food clothing or other requirements for healthy living and also the work environment psychosocial circumstances like stressful living circumstances relationships and social support behavioral and biological circumstances.

Recommendations for Social Determinants of Health
  • Initiatives, both public and private, on the social determinants of health and toward greater health equity should be supported.
  • A dedicated Social Determinants Committee should be set up at the district, state, and national levels.
  • Include Social Determinants of Health in the mandate of the National Health Promotion and Protection Trust.
  • Develop and implement a Comprehensive National Health Equity Surveillance Framework, as recommended by the Commission on Social Determinants of Health.