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Social Sci LibreTexts

19.1D: Social Class and Health

  • Page ID
    8547
  • [ "article:topic" ]

    Social class has a significant impact on one’s physical health, ability to receive adequate medical care and nutrition, and life expectancy.

     

    LEARNING OBJECTIVES

     

    Discuss the role social class plays in access to adequate health care and health inequality

     

    KEY TAKEAWAYS

    Key Points

     

    • While gender and race play significant factors in explaining healthcare inequality in the United States, socioeconomic status is the greatest determining factor in an individual’s level of access to healthcare.
    • Social determinants of health are the economic and social conditions, and their distribution among the population, that influence individual and group differences in health status.
    • They are risk factors found in one’s living and working conditions (such as the distribution of income, wealth, influence, and power), rather than individual factors (such as behavioral risk factors or genetics) that influence the risk for a disease, injury, or vulnerability to disease or injury.
    • Social determinants of health are the economic and social conditions, and their distribution among the population, that influence individual and group differences in health status.
    • Health inequality is the term used in a number of countries to refer to those instances whereby the health of two demographic groups (not necessarily ethnic or racial groups) differs despite comparative access to health care services.

     

    Key Terms

     

    • social determinants of health: The economic and social conditions that influence individual and group differences in health status.
    • health inequality: The unequal distribution of environmental health hazards and access to health services between demographic groups, including social classes.

    The Role of Social Class in Health

    A person’s social class has a significant impact on their physical health, their ability to receive adequate medical care and nutrition, and their life expectancy. While gender and race play significant factors in explaining healthcare inequality in the United States, socioeconomic status is the greatest determining factor in an individual’s level of access to healthcare.

    Individuals of lower socioeconomic status in the United States experience a wide array of health problems as a result of their economic status. They are unable to use health care as often, and when they do it is of lower quality, even though they generally tend to experience a much higher rate of health issues. Furthermore, individuals of lower socioeconomic status have less education and often perform jobs without significant health and benefits plans, whereas individuals of higher standing are more likely to have jobs that provide medical insurance. Consequently, they have higher rates of infant mortality, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and disabling physical injuries.

    Social determinants of health are the economic and social conditions, and their distribution among the population, that influence individual and group differences in health status. They are risk factors found in one’s living and working conditions (such as the distribution of income, wealth, influence, and power), rather than individual factors (such as behavioral risk factors or genetics) that influence the risk for a disease, injury, or vulnerability to disease or injury. According to some viewpoints, these distributions of social determinants are shaped by public policies that reflect the influence of prevailing political ideologies of those governing a jurisdiction.

    Health inequality is the term used in a number of countries to refer to those instances whereby the health of two demographic groups (not necessarily ethnic or racial groups) differs despite comparative access to health care services. Such examples include higher rates of morbidity and mortality for those in lower occupational classes than those in higher occupational classes, and the increased likelihood of those from ethnic minorities being diagnosed with a mental health disorder.