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Social factors are the ones that condition health the most

Health outcomes do not only depend on biological and genetic factors. In fact, social factors are the most decisive: in 43% the lifestyle, 11% the health system and 19% the environmental conditions.

Thus, the biopharmaceutical company MSD in collaboration with the Gaspar Casal Foundationhas developed different initiatives to deal with inequalities caused by different social factors in health.

Among them, he has organized a seminar with the aim of making these factors visible with a view to developing equitable access to health.

Genetics is not the only determinant that conditions the state of health.

Other factors such as the socio-economic situation, the level of education, the place of residence and housing, the work environment, the network of social and family relations, as well as the ability to access health services are also conditioning.

All of these elements have an impact on the existence of inequalities that have an impact on people’s health and life expectancy.

Influence of social determinants on Spanish health

They point out that health outcomes depend on a 27% of the biological and genetic factorsin one 43% of the lifestylesin one 11% from healthcare system and in one 19% of the environmental conditionsso three out of four are social factors.

Among these, stand out:

  • The genre.
  • The place of residence.
  • The access to health.
  • The educational level and/or economic situation.
  • Others: ethnicity, sexual diversity, immigration status…


Gender also influences average life expectancy. In the case of women, the average is 82.9 yearswhile that of men is of 77.3. Women live longer, but they do so with a greater burden of disease.

Place of residence

Geographically, in autonomous communities with higher GDP per capita, such as Madrid, the Basque Country, Catalonia… located in the north, life expectancy is higher.

In other locations in the south, such as Melilla, the average can be reduced to four years.

Access to health

Health social factors rural medicine
EFE/Javier Cebollada

At rural areas access to health is determined by inequality.

The lack of health professionals in these areas and the difficult access to primary and hospital care centers means that their cohabitants are at greater risk of suffering from chronic diseases and less access to preventive diagnostic tests.

In addition, the rural population has worse visual health and women in this environment know less about the Human Papilloma Virus vaccine than those who live in the city.

The economic situation also matters

According to the report “For unspecified health. A road map towards equity”carried out by both institutions, people with less access to education, lower employment or lower incomes tend to suffer more health problems and are more likely to die at earlier ages.

Depending on the economic situationlife expectancy also varies.

Health social factors economy
EFE/JJ Guillen

A study carried out by Epidemiology and Public Health Group (CIBERESP) of the Network Biomedical Research Centerpublished in the magazine Natureit reflects that people with fewer resources live between three and four years less than those with greater purchasing power.

A higher income provides a better quality of life, a higher level of education and more comprehensive health services.

In the case of job and housing insecurity, there is a positive association between precarious employment and poor mental health, which is particularly evident in women.

Initiatives and challenges

The challenge proposed by the organizations is to start working for a certain health so that none of these determinants cause a lack of equity in health.

In this same line, they propose to act with a multisectoral approach in terms of training and awareness, an increase in the registration of data and evidence and the application of effective policies.

Among the initiatives carried out, it stands out MSD for Mothers (a campaign to reduce pregnancy-related deaths on a global scale) and a MECTIZAN Donation Program (for the elimination of onchocerciasis or river blindness in Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala and Mexico), in addition to different clinical trials.

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