Social Determinants of Health

Social determinants of health refer to the factors of our life, external to our body, which shape our health.  In other words: our living conditions, social experiences, level of access to housing, quality food, education, employment & early childhood education, as well as our experiences of social discrimination, all have a significant impact on our health and wellness.

Health outcomes tend to be poorer for marginalized populations.  This is not because some people are inherently “healthier” than others, but rather because people exist within a social context that gives some greater access to the factors that contribute to health and well-being.

The World Health Organization defines the social determinants of health as the circumstances in which people are born, develop, live and age. They include:

  • income and income distribution
  • early life
  • education
  • housing
  • food security
  • employment and working conditions
  • unemployment and job security
  • social safety net
  • social inclusion and exclusion
  • health services

These social factors have been proven to have a stronger effect on an individual’s health than diet, physical activity, tobacco use, and excessive alcohol use.  This shows us that health is not solely determined by individual lifestyle choices, environment, or even biology, but rather that the collective social context plays an extremely important role in determining quality of health.

SERC MB acknowledges that unequal social structures and power relationships contribute to health inequalities.  Everyone should have the opportunity to make choices that contribute to positive health and wellbeing, regardless of background, ethnicity, income level, education, gender, etc.  SERC is committed to addressing the disparities of health, and to ensuring equitable access to our programs and services.