The following points highlight the top six social variables influencing health of a person. The social variables are: 1. Age 2. Life Style 3. Socio-Economic Status 4. Environmental Conditions 5. Race 6. Sex.
Social Variable # 1. Age:
Data obtained from several research studies and investigations indicate that young persons between the age of 20-30 years and old persons over 65 years suffer from various diseases.
While young persons are more susceptible to acute illnesses like influenza, flu, upper respiratory problems, some studies show that more than 80 per cent of the old persons suffer from old age chronic diseases like arthritis, hypertension, heart disease.
Besides diabetes, hearing and visual impairments, cataract, urinary and prostrate problems are common old age problems. In view of this both older and younger persons require more health care than persons of the middle age do.
Children are also prone to various physical diseases and adjustment problems unless proper health care facilities are provided to them and proper health care habits are developed in them. Usually parents with good health care habits facilitate the same in their children. Early attitudes to health care also influence future attitudes for the development of good health care habits and health awareness.
Social Variable # 2. Life Style:
Today tremendous importance is given to the relationship between life style, personal habits and illness of a person. Research data in the area of medical science and clinical psychology support the above. In USA about 70 per cent of all illnesses, both physical and mental are said to be related to life style and personal habits.
Diabetes, high blood pressure and various cardiac diseases are aggravated due to bad life style which includes food and eating habits, type of work done, drugs, alcohols and tobacco, taken, whether one makes manual labour and bodily exercises or not etc. Regular physical activity has a positive effect on health and mental state.
It reduces stress and anxiety. Judicious physical exercise helps in the prevention and treatment of anxiety, depression, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Those who do little manual work, those who smoke, drink and eat rich food regularly without doing any physical exercise are more susceptible to cancer, heart attack and cardiac diseases.
Therefore today health conscious people are more and more attending health clubs, doing yoga and meditation, aerobic exercises, brisk walk in the morning/evening and are also interested in taking simple vegetarian food to prevent serious illnesses.
Social Variable # 3. Socio-Economic Status:
Generally, income, occupation, education and living standard of a person comprise of one’s socioeconomic status. Data show that the incidence of illness is influenced by one’s S.E.S. Normally, people with lower S.E.S. are more prone to physical diseases and have reduced life expectancy, keeping other factors constant. It is also found that longevity is positively correlated to S.E.S. level.
Because of want of education and financial resources, low social prestige, and lack of health awareness, they take little care of their health problems until the disease becomes severe. Some studies in the area of psychopathology do show that while high S.E.S. persons had a slightly higher percentage of bipolar disease, the low S.E.S. groups had higher percentage of schizophrenia.
Social Variable # 4. Environmental Conditions:
About 25 to 30 per cent of the current days’ health problems are contributed by the environmental factors, unhealthy, unilluminating environmental conditions and risks such as toxics, waste products, lead, asbestos, dioxins are vital sources of disease and death. Similarly general rise in psychological dysfunctions is found in persons growing in disordered environment. I
t has been observed that mental diseases rise particularly when environment changes from the sub-urban community to inner city or from semi-urban, rural area to down town.
Social Variable # 5. Race:
Most of the studies on the relationship between race and health care have been done in USA Statistics show that in 1984. visit to hospitals and doctors by white persons was 10 times more compared to the African Americans. It was further noticed that obesity, diabetes, arthritis, hypertension and heart diseases were higher among African Americans than Americans.
It is also observed in India diseases are more found among the so called lower caste people staying in slum areas and rural remote villages. Hospitalization and hospital visits are also less by the low S.E.S. people.
Social Variable # 6. Sex:
It is viewed by Kaplan and Sadock (1987) that irrespective of age variable, women seek for health care more than men and are often hospitalized. They are admitted to hospitals more frequently for check up before child birth, at the time of child birth, heart disease and cancer; while men are hospitalized for heart disease, cancer and fracture.
Heart disease, arthritis and impairment of the back are the three chronic diseases in males while in female, they are arthritis, heart conditions and hypertension. But this data has not been verified with the Indian men and women and hence may not be exactly the same in case of Indians except arthritis which is very common in Indian women.
However, because of improved health care facilities today the mortality rate shows a downward trend. Though psychiatric illness does not play a significant role in mortality rate, it is perhaps a major cause of rise in abnormality rate.
Studies show that females have lower mortality rate than males in all age groups, but the gap has been decreasing during recent years. The most common cause of death between the age group of 15 to 24 seems to be accidents while homicide and suicide are the next two important causes of death in the above age group.
In children under 14, the most common causes of death are accident, cancer, congenital anomalies etc. In infant the three major causes of death are congenital anomalies, respiratory distress syndrome and sudden infant death syndrome.
In USA the mortality rate of African American infants is about double of the white infants. Fortunately, for all age groups now mortality rate is decreasing and life expectancy is steadily increasing.