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More money = more health?


Health is a complex construct and depends on many determinants, such as genes and lifestyle. What many people do not consider as an influencing factor are the social conditions. These, in fact, also determine people’s health. In this article, you will learn which social factors influence health and what the social gradient is all about.

Life situation as a factor influencing health

If you were to ask about the components of a healthy life, you would probably get genes, a healthy diet, sufficient exercise, relaxation, and abstaining from alcohol and cigarettes as an answer. There is no question about it – all these aspects have a great influence on our health. However, there is another decisive factor that is usually not directly associated with health: a person’s social situation.

The social situation is the social position of a person, which is also determined by economic and cultural factors. The main factors are education, occupation and income. In addition, however, marital status, ethnicity, social participation, educational opportunities, employment status, income and access to health care, for example, all have an impact on social position.

The social gradient: why social inequality also means health inequality

In science, the phenomenon has been extensively proven: The social gradient states that the worse a person’s socioeconomic living situation, the lower their health chances. Specifically, this means that people with a low social status are more likely to be affected by diseases and have a shorter life expectancy. For example, single parents, people receiving income support or migrants often have poorer health opportunities.

How does social status affect health?

Socioeconomic resources have a reciprocal and multifaceted effect on people’s health. Starting with the level of education, it can be noted that this is often accompanied by a lower level of health knowledge and consequently health behaviors are not as pronounced. Working conditions are also important. As a nurse, one has a high workload, both physically and psychologically, has to work in shifts, which means that one does not have a regular daily and thus sleep rhythm, and has a low income. Income also determines health opportunities: can I afford organic products or superfoods? Is the gym just too expensive? Might I still have to work a mini-job in my spare time instead of relaxing once in a while? Can I afford the medication or the co-payment for it? The far-reaching social determinants on health are enormous. Of course, everyone has a certain degree of control over their own health, but it should also be taken into account that we live in a system and a society that significantly influence our life chances and our health.

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