What are they and why do they matter?

Biological, behavioural, and genetic factors aren’t the only things that influence our health. The social determinants of health (SDOH) are the social and economic factors that influence the health of a population. These include:

  • Gender/gender identity
  • Race/racialization
  • Ethnicity
  • Indigeneity
  • Colonization
  • Migrant and refugee experiences
  • Religion
  • Culture
  • Discrimination/social exclusion/social inclusion
  • Education/literacy
  • Health literacy
  • Occupation/working conditions
  • Income/income security
  • Employment/job security
  • Early life experiences (child development)
  • Disability
  • Nutrition/food security
  • Housing/housing security
  • Natural and built environments
  • Social safety net / social protection
  • Access to health services
  • Geography

These social determinants of health are not equally distributed in our society. Differences in access to the social determinants of health means that some people or groups have greater risk of poor health.

For example:

  • In Toronto, men in the lowest income group are 50% more likely to die before the age of 75 than men in the highest income group. Women in the lowest income group are 85% more likely to have diabetes than women in the highest income group (Toronto Public Health, 2015).
  • The cost of feeding a family of four has increased in both First Nations and non-First Nations communities, but it costs 73% more to feed a family of four in a remote First Nations community (2017 Nutritious Food Basket Survey).

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