Key points

  • This guide explores how a person’s opportunity for health is influenced by factors outside the health and social care system.
  • It also shows that many people don’t have the same opportunities to be as healthy as others.
  • It contains suggestions for further reading and, with the help of short case studies, highlights how action can create improvements in the health of the whole population, for the lasting benefit of individuals, society and the economy.
  • The guide has been written for anyone with an interest in people’s health and wellbeing, and will be especially useful to those new to the social determinants of health.

What causes heart disease? To some, the clear answer would be ‘blocked arteries’. So, what, in turn, causes those arteries to become blocked? Perhaps it’s the unhealthy food and drink people consume, their lack of exercise or their stress levels. And what, in turn makes them feel stressed, shapes their opportunities to be active and determines their choices about what they eat and drink?

The answers lie in the circumstances in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age: the social determinants of health. These can enable individuals and societies to flourish, or not. These are the causes of the causes.

The Health Foundation has written this guide as a brief introduction to the social determinants of health. 

Further reading

Discover

Thinking differently about health

Our health is shaped by a wide range of factors, from the jobs we do to the places where we live....

Infographic

Infographic: What makes us healthy?

To understand what shapes our health and wellbeing, we need to look at the bigger picture. This...

Analysis

Creating healthy lives

September 2019

This publication makes the case for an ambitious, whole-government approach to long-term investment...

You might also like...

Blog

Highlighting the health inequalities faced by young people in the UK

Ann Hagell and Rahkee Shah from the Association of Young People's Health explores inequalities faced...

Press release

One in three employees report being in low-quality jobs

New Health Foundation research finds that one in three UK employees report being in low-quality...

Event

Webinar: The NHS as an anchor

This webinar expands upon the findings of our recent report 'Building healthier communities: the...

Kjell-bubble-diagramArtboard 101

Work with us

We look for talented and passionate individuals as everyone at the Health Foundation has an important role to play.

View current vacancies
Artboard 101 copy 2

The Q community

Q is an initiative connecting people with improvement expertise across the UK.

Find out more