Population health: The Relationship between Health and Socioeconomic Status

Richard A. Kimball, Jr.
Richard A. Kimball, Jr.

There is a very intricate relationship between health and socioeconomic status. It is very easy for us to imagine that people with higher income have better access to healthcare. Those people who are higher up the economic ladder can afford to go to the best hospitals and doctors, buy a sufficient quantity of expensive medicine, and receive the latest medical treatment that make use of cutting-edge technology.

The relationship of health and socioeconomic status goes even deeper than this. However, it exists not just in the realms of treatment, but also of disease prevention. Scientific literature contains various examples of how socioeconomic factors like low income and limited formal education increase persons’ vulnerability to various diseases.

One study found a significant relationship between educational attainment and quality of sleep. The participants who had the least amount of education or who were unemployed often had the highest number of sleep complaints. Lack of sleep or poor sleep quality has long been established  as a factor that  increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other ailments.

Another study found a strong link between obesity and below-poverty-level income, as well as the use of food stamps. The conclusion of the study was that lower income often leads people to make  poor food choices. Poor people often resort to fast food, high-calorie food, and food with lots of preservatives. They also consume less fruits, vegetables, and less organic food in general.

People with lower educational attainment are also susceptible to misinformation about health. Regularly consulting medical doctors and other health professionals about health concerns requires money, and so people with low income may forego this and resort instead to less valid, more affordable resources. This circumstance makes a proactive and inexpensive approach to health care education very important to construct and deliver for this population.

Most of the above sound like common sense, yet it is so surprising that socioeconomic factors are not being more widely considered in research as independent risk factors for diseases. Ignoring factors such as educational attainment, employment, and income can lead to under-treatment and a wider economic disparity in healthcare and disease prevention.

Proper health education for low-income communities should be a priority, in fact. We should make healthier food choices more affordable. We must ensure better work conditions and work hours for blue-collar workers. In short, our health systems should always take into account socioeconomic factors so that more people from low-income communities can enjoy the benefits of a healthier lifestyle.

3 Responses

  • Madison

    Exactly true. I agree with the author. To add to it, the problem of overpopulation has made things worse. In poor countries, the number of people living in squalid conditions continues to grow mainly because government resources cannot supply all the health needs of the ever growing population. This results in several problems such as malnutrition, starvation, spread of diseases and ultimately, death.

  • Mary

    The socio economic status of a country speaks of the health care that it can provide to its people. Developed Countries with a very high population cannot provide all the health services needed by the people more so developing countries.

  • Cassedey

    I can definitely see how poorer countries or even people who live within the US have issues with getting healthcare. No access to good healthcare to treat conditions like diabetes and heart conditions.

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