What are social determinants of health?

Social determinants of health (SDOH) are the conditions in the environments where people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks.

SDOH can be grouped into 5 domains:

Image
The 5 social determinants of health

Social determinants of health (SDOH) have a major impact on people’s health, well-being, and quality of life. Examples of SDOH include:

  • Safe housing, transportation, and neighborhoods
  • Racism, discrimination, and violence
  • Education, job opportunities, and income
  • Access to nutritious foods and physical activity opportunities
  • Polluted air and water
  • Language and literacy skills

SDOH also contribute to wide health disparities and inequities. For example, people who don't have access to grocery stores with healthy foods are less likely to have good nutrition. That raises their risk of health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity — and even lowers life expectancy relative to people who do have access to healthy foods.

Just promoting healthy choices won't eliminate these and other health disparities. Instead, public health organizations and their partners in sectors like education, transportation, and housing need to take action to improve the conditions in people's environments. 

That's why Healthy People 2030 has an increased and overarching focus on SDOH.

How Does Healthy People 2030 Address SDOH?

One of Healthy People 2030’s 5 overarching goals is specifically related to SDOH: “Create social, physical, and economic environments that promote attaining the full potential for health and well-being for all.”

In line with this goal, Healthy People 2030 features many objectives related to SDOH. These objectives highlight the importance of "upstream" factors — usually unrelated to health care delivery — in improving health and reducing health disparities.

More than a dozen workgroups made up of subject matter experts with different backgrounds and areas of expertise developed these objectives. One of these groups, the Social Determinants of Health Workgroup, focuses solely on SDOH.

Explore Research Related to SDOH

Social determinants of health affect nearly everyone in one way or another. Our literature summaries provide a snapshot of the latest research related to specific SDOH.

Read SDOH literature summaries

Learn About Other Efforts to Address SDOH

Across the United States, people and organizations at the local, state, territorial, tribal, and national level are working hard to improve health and reduce health disparities by addressing SDOH.

Check out what our partners are doing