Social Determinants of Health

Social determinants of health are social and environmental conditions that affect our “health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks” (Healthy People 2030). Watch this video below for an introduction to these concepts.

Other research in the public health field tells us that in addition to social determinants of health, “social positions” such as socioeconomic status, race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality and other identity factors create inequitable access to health determinants (Braveman & Gottlieb, 2014; Paradies et al., 2015).

At Bates, we acknowledge that it is not possible to have a conversation about wellness and well-being without understanding the ways in which different identity factors, structural oppression, and social determinants of health have affected students’ lived experiences and the ways in which students engage in and experience the Bates campus and community.  

We work to empower students to be intentional about the ways in which they practice and engage with their well-being in their day to day lives. While there are many factors affecting the ways in which students do this, there are many ways in which students can inform positive decisions and practices that are right for them. These practices, in tandem with connection to the communities around you and informed civic action, work to disrupt the systems of power and oppression in the well-being field and contribute to responsible stewardship of the wider world.


Definitions of Health Disparities and Social Determinants of Health

Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, July). What is Health Equity? Health Equity.

This source provides background information about health disparities and the factors that affect them, the social determinants of health.

Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Social Determinants of Health. Healthy People 2030.

This source provides information about the five categories of social determinants of health: Economic Stability, Education Access and Quality, Health Care Access and Quality, Neighborhood and Built Environment and Social and Community Context, and the ways in which each of these categories affect individuals lives and health on both daily and long-term bases.

Social Position, Identity, and Wellness

Braveman, P., & Gottlieb, L. (2014). The social determinants of health: It’s time to consider the causes of the causes. Nursing in 3D: Diversity, Disparities, and Social Determinants, 129(2), 19-31.

This article reviews some the research importance of social—and particularly socioeconomic—factors as determinants of health.

Graham, H. (2004). Social determinants and their unequal distribution: Clarifying policy understandings. The Milbank Quarterly, 82(1), 101-124.

This source explains that economic status, along with other social positions, such as race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality, are “fundamental causes” of people’s (unequal) health, representing enduring dimensions of both social and health inequality.

Paradies, Y., Ben, J., Denson, N., Elias, A., Priest, N., Pieterse, A., Gupta, A., Kelaher, M., & Gee, G. (2015). Racism as a determinant of health: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One 10(9), 10.1371/journal.pone.0138511

This source reviews data from 239 independent studies conducted between 1983-2013, examining the the relationship between reported racism and mental and physical health outcomes. In general, experiences of racism are associated with poorer mental health and physical health outcomes.