The socioeconomic factors that determine health include: employment, education, and income. Socioeconomic refers to society related economic factors. These factors relate to and influence one another. For example, your employment will dictate your income. Your income level often correlates to your level of education and your level of education helps to dictate your employment. That is, someone with a Bachelor in Applied Science, a Masters in Medicine and a PhD in Neurological surgical techniques is in a prime position to earn a large income as a specialist Neurological surgeon. This then allows them to pay for and usually leads to expectations upon that person’s children to achieve a similar level of education, employment and income. these socioeconomic factors then influence health.
The first socioeconomic factor is employment. Your employment is your job. What you do for a living. Your employment status and your particular occupation has a large impact on your health. For example, people with physically active jobs, such as a labourer or a personal trainer are more likely to complete the recommended 30 min a day, 5 days a week for vigorous physical activity. However, a high level executive who works long hours and sits at a desk all day is less likely to do physical activity, is more likely to be stressed and have a poor social life.
Other examples could include the increased risk of skin cancer in those who work outside, such as life guards, or PE teachers. People who work in mines will also have higher exposure to chemicals and breathe in dust as they work, making them more susceptible to lung infections and cancers. People who work as radiologist spend more time around radiation making them more likely to suffer from cancers. People who work in the transport industry are more likely to be involved in an accident leading to both emotional and physical consequences.
Some more positive examples could include: farmers having a more active lifestyle, greater community involvement, and fresh air. Sports coaches being more active, community workers having good support networks, and a priest or pastor will have greater community involvement and a solid purpose to life.
Education is another socioeconomic factor that determines your health. Not only will education influence your choice of employment, but your education will directly impact your health. Education does not just refer to your level of education. That is, it does not just refer to whether you complete your HSC, go to University etc. Your education and health can be specific.
Your level of health education includes much of what is taught in PDHPE from K-12. It will include your knowledge about what a healthy diet is, how much exercise you should do, how the 5 dimensions of health interact, and more. But it will also include your level of reading and how well you can do research. Knowing where to get information from, how to know if it is reliable and then interpreting this information in order to make a good decision about your health.
Generally speaking people who have lower levels of education, will also have lower levels of health education, but this is not always true. For example, someone who has had a personal experience of cancer may well know where to find information, who to trust and how cancer works to much greater degree than a PhD graduate who studied business and has not ever really looked into cancer.
So, education as a socioeconomic factor can be general and specific as it determines health.
The final socioeconomic factor is income. Income will dramatically influence and help determine your level of health. Income relates to the amount of money coming into your bank account and often the more you earn the better your health can be. People with higher levels of income can afford many of the health care services that are not completely covered by Medicare.
For example, someone with a higher income can afford to see a physiotherapist to recover from a knee injury, while a person from a lower socioeconomic background cannot. They can also afford dental care, to purchase better quality foods (organic etc), pay to join a gym or have a personal trainer, pay for social activities etc.
Essentially, a higher income provides you with better choice. Even the choice of location for where to live, better parks, cleaner home, taking regular holidays etc. It all contributes towards a better overall health status.
Those with a lower socioeconomic status are at higher risk of having poor health. They are less educated, leading to poorer health choices; have less money leading to less health choice, and often work in occupations that provide increased risks to health, such as the transport industry or administrative roles.
The video below is useful in showing how the socioeconomic factors affect health, however it is American, and needs to be adjusted in its application to Australia.