Why are some areas in the world healthier than others? Do we really understand what is influencing our health?
Research has shown that most people live about 80% of their lives in a twenty-mile radius around their home and workspace. There are many characteristics of our life-radius that affect our health. Accessibility to healthcare services is an obvious one. However, there are more subtle influences like public safety. Would you like to get your daily exercise by taking a long walk through an unsafe neighborhood?
We can better understand how our life-radius impacts our health through four big influencers or “social determinants.”
Did you know there are 16 states in the USA that still allow smoking in restaurants? Are the nutrition facts of the foods you buy on the back or on the front? Local, state, national, and global policies impact our health. Your vote can make a difference.
2. Our social network.
Our family, friends, and other social support systems impact our health. For example, there is a 171% chance increase in becoming obese when a close friend is obese. Social norms and what’s deemed “acceptable” can influence our health. Conversely, people who have a spouse, a good friend or even a devoted pet live healthier and so happier lives.
3. Our neighborhoods…The built environment.
Do you have access to fresh produce? How easy and safe is it to walk around outside? Are the restaurants near you fast-food chains? Do you have a community center that supports programs for a healthier you? Recently the City of Seattle reported that a park is available within a 10 minute walk from any neighborhood within the city limits.
4. Our work environment.
Does our work environment foster unwarranted stress? Does our job require us to sit for prolonged periods of time? Is it normal to bring your lunch or do your coworkers eat out every day? Does your work situation promote opportunities to be engage in a healthier lifestyle?
Recognizing these social determinants is the first step in building your own health. Don’t let your social determinants “determine” your health. Small changes in our personal behavior provide big yields in our health and wellbeing. Navigating these influences on our health can be challenging, but that’s exactly what your healthcare team is here for!