Social Determinants of Health

Modified: 18th May 2020
Wordcount: 1246 words

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1.0           Introduction

Cardiovascular diseases account for 17.9 million deaths each year, which is estimated as 31% of all deaths worldwide. Low and middle income countries accounted for more than 75% of deaths caused by cardiovascular disease(“WHO | Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs),” 2019). The leading cause of death in Australia was Ischaemic heart disease (18,590 deaths), accounting for 11.6% of all deaths.(Statistics, n.d.,2018). The social determinants of health are areas in a person’s life that can affect their health. The social determinants of health are income/ socioeconomic status, education, health service access, social support networks, physical environment, gender, and culture/ ethnicity. High income/ socioeconomic status people can easily access prevention methods for cardiovascular disease as treatment whereas the low and middle income/ socioeconomic status people can’t access prevention methods or treatment for cardiovascular disease. This leads to a high percentage of deaths of low and middle income/ socioeconomic status people.

2.0       The social determinants of health

2.1 Income/ Socioeconomic status

Income is the amount of money a person earns usually through employment. The socioeconomic status of a person is usually determined by a person’s income or social status. Socioeconomic status and income affect an individual’s health due to it determining what a person can do to prevent health related issues and what they can do to get better if they get any health-related issues. “The poorest of the poor, around the world, have the worst health. Within countries, the evidence shows that in general the lower an individual’s socioeconomic position the worse their health”(“WHO | Key concepts,” 2013) this is known as the social gradient.

2.2 Education

Education is the level of schooling a person receives. “Education provides knowledge and skills so that individuals can improve their own health and access appropriate health services (Alder& Newman 2002)”(Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. & Australian Institute of Health and Welfare., 2006).Education can also affect health as the level of education a person receives can also determine the income and socioeconomic status of a person in the future.

2.3 Health service access

Health service access is the availability of adequate health services such as doctors. “Higher incomes can enable the purchase of health-related goods and services such as better food, housing, recreation and health care, and may provide psychological benefits such as a greater sense of control”(Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. & Australian Institute of Health and Welfare., 2006).

2.4 Social support networks

Social support networks are other people such as friends and family that can help a person through a time of need. “Social exclusion also results from racism, discrimination, stigmatization, hostility and unemployment. These processes prevent people from participating in education or training, and gaining access to services and citizenship activities. They are socially and psychologically damaging, materially costly, and harmful to health” (Wilkinson & Marmot, The Social Determinants of Health: The Solid Facts, 2003).

2.5 Physical environment

“The physical environment, such as the climate, the land, plant and animal life, and human-made factors such as chemical pollution, the built environment and waste products.  Among many things, these can affect a society’s supply of water, and food and other primary products, and therefore its wealth, and they can influence where and how people live and spend their time”(Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. & Australian Institute of Health and Welfare., 2006).

2.6 Gender

Gender or “sex refers to the biological differences between males and females, such as the genitalia and genetic differences”(“Sex and gender: Meanings, definition, identity, and expression,” n.d.). males are more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease. In 2017, 10,514 males died of ischaemic heart disease whereas only 8,076 females died from ischaemic heart disease(Statistics, n.d.-a).

2.7 Culture/ Ethnicity

Ethnicity is the nationality of a person. Culture is “the customary beliefs, social reforms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group”(“Culture | Definition of Culture by Merriam-Webster,” n.d.). Different ethnic and cultural groups are more likely to get health related illnesses such as aboriginal and Torris strait islanders are more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease. “Two in three (65.3%) aboriginals had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease”(Statistics, n.d.-b).

3.0 Conclusion

Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death. “Reducing health inequities is important because health is a fundamental human right and its progressive realization will eliminate inequalities that result from differences in health status (such as disease or disability) in the opportunity to enjoy life and pursue one’s life plans”(“WHO | Equity,” 2011). “Thus, to be effective and sustainable, interventions that aim to redress inequities must typically go beyond remedying a particular health inequality and also help empower the group in question through systemic changes, such as law reform or changes in economic or social relationships.(“WHO | Equity,” 2011)”



  • Australian Institute of Health and Welfare., & Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2006). Australia’s health 2006 : the tenth biennial health report of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
  • Culture | Definition of Culture by Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Retrieved July 6, 2019, from
  • Sex and gender: Meanings, definition, identity, and expression. (n.d.). Retrieved July 7, 2019, from
  • Statistics,  c=AU; o=Commonwealth of A. ou=Australian B. of. (n.d.-a). Main Features – Australia’s leading causes of death, 2017. Retrieved from[email protected]/Lookup/by Subject/3303.0~2017~Main Features~Australia’s leading causes of death, 2017~2
  • Statistics,  c=AU; o=Commonwealth of A. ou=Australian B. of. (n.d.-b). Main Features – Key Findings. Retrieved from[email protected]/productsbytopic/AACCF293F30EA612CA257D4E001705CD?OpenDocument
  • WHO | Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs). (2019). WHO. Retrieved from
  • WHO | Equity. (2011). WHO. Retrieved from
  • WHO | Key concepts. (2013). WHO. Retrieved from


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