As a doctor, it is pretty humbling to reflect on the fairly minimal impact our health care system has on individuals’ overall health. One study I find particularly intriguing shows that socioeconomic factors (e.g., education and income), and physical environment (e.g., security and safety at home and reliable access to transportation), affect a person’s health outcomes just as much as their behaviors (e.g., mental health, diet, and physical activity) and the clinical care they receive. The data indicates an even, 50/50 split.
I suspect that many people view such data as interesting—but not exactly surprising. We have always known that sometimes there is little we can do medically to help a person until we have attended to their so-called social determinants of health (SDOH). Concerns about money, transportation, food security, housing uncertainty, and other socioeconomic factors nearly always prevent people from concentrating on their health.