Social determinants of health

Social Determinants of Health

The social determinants of health play a key role in mental health outcomes. Where a person works, plays, lives, and prays not only impacts physical health, but also mental health. This includes factors such as a person’s access to and quality of education; access to and quality of health care; access to healthy food; affordable housing and homelessness; the neighborhood they live in; the communities they engage in; their economic stability, and more.

Safe Neighborhoods & Affordable Housing

Housing plays a crucial role in shaping an individual’s physical and mental well-being. For example, the quality and safety of housing directly impact physical health as overcrowding, poor ventilation, exposure to toxins, and unsafe structures can lead to a wide range of health issues. Incomplete plumbing facilities can impede proper sanitation, clean water, and good hygiene practices essential for maintaining health. High housing costs, housing instability and homelessness can lead to increased stress levels, social isolation, reduced access to social services, and increased vulnerability to mental health issues, substance abuse, and violence.

Employment and Financial Stability

Individuals experiencing poverty and living in high poverty neighborhoods exhibit worse mental health outcomes compared to people living with economic stability. Poor economic circumstances have been connected to reduced job opportunities, increased conflicts with law enforcement, and reduced quality of education, all of which contribute to high mental health stressors. The 2021 census data shows a median annual household income of $75,909 across the county. However, 9.6 percent of the adults and 12.1 percent of children aged 0-17 years live in poverty according to 2021 census data.

Access to Food

Access to nutritional food impacts working, learning, and living. Consuming fewer processed foods is connected to better brain development and emotional health. Having limited or uncertain access to food is associated not only with poorer health outcomes, but also contributes to higher levels of stress and anxiety. Adults living with a mental health disability are up to five times more likely to live in a home that is food insecure.

Access to Education and Learning Opportunities

Individuals who have greater educational access and quality often have a better chance at upward mobility socioeconomically and may experience less poor mental health outcomes such as depression. Education as a determinant of mental health has shown that individuals who received more education had a lower likelihood of reporting symptoms to depression (11.3 percent) and anxiety (9.8 percent) later in life. According to the 2021 U.S. Census American Community Survey, 94 percent of individuals 25 years and older attained a high school degree or higher and 41 percent attained a bachelor’s degree or higher in El Paso County.