Human Health Term Paper

Pages: 6 (1711 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Healthcare

¶ … human health is one of the basic necessities of well-being. Indeed, it is seen as one of the most basic rights that people in modern society should be able to rely on. The unfortunate fact, however, is that society is set up in such a way that access to quality health care is often limited to the wealthy. Racial and economic inequalities make it difficult for certain sectors of society to access certain or even any level of health care. Hence, the general health of populations from lower economic classes suffers. One way to mitigate this situation is to make a thorough study of the relationship between social inequality and health factors. By offering interventions and educating populations about prevention methods, the current burden on the health care system can be alleviated while also offering a platform for better health among disadvantaged populations. The importance of studying the relationship between social inequality and health outcomes for disadvantaged populations lie in the fact that a better understanding can be cultivated of this issue, while also providing a platform from which better health outcomes can be provided for these populations.

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Uberson and Montez (2010) focus their study upon social relationships and how these affect health in terms of "mental health, health behavior, physical health, and mortality risk." The authors note that social relationships in terms of both quantity and quality can affect these health outcomes. Depending upon the nature of these relationships, they can have either a positive or negative, short or long-term effects on human health outcomes.

The authors also stress the importance of sociologists in determining the extent of the link between social relationships and health outcomes, starting as early as during childhood.

Term Paper on Human Health Is One of Assignment

One of the best pieces of evidence for the importance of social relationships in a person's continued health is the proven effects of social isolation. Umberson and Montez (2010), for example, mention prisoners of war undergoing social isolation as part of a torture process. Such methods have resulted in the psychological and physical disintegration, and even the death of formerly healthy, stable individuals. Social scientists have followed this evidence with further attempts to determine the effects of existing social relationships, rather than their absence, on human health. It has been clearly established that adults with more social connections tend to be healthier and live longer than those living in relative isolation.

Specifically, Umberson and Montez (2010) have found the following: Social relationships affect health in significant ways; behavioral, psychosocial, and physiological pathways are inherent in these effects; both costs and benefits can result form social relationships; relationships shape health throughout the life course and health effects accumulate over time; due to the varied nature of human relationships, these costs and benefits are not equally distributed across society.

It follows that there is also a reverse side to this health outcome; where negatively oriented social relationships would have negative health outcomes. In a society where social inequality is prevalent, for example, constant experiences of prejudice and social inequality may result in psychological stressors and ultimately negative outcomes such as chronic physical illness and even death. Furthermore, social inequality could also lead to a type of isolation, where unequal populations are barred from social events, services, and privileges. This type of isolation could also lead to psychological stress, with the above-mentioned outcomes. In addition, strained and conflicted social interactions, often used as a substitute for inaccessible healthy relationships, could lead to negative effects such as risky behaviors such as increased alcohol use, smoking, overeating, and the like.

Stringhini et al. (2010) also focus on lifestyle and health-related behaviors and how these are affected by peers and social relationships in terms of morbidity and mortality rates. This relates to Uphoff et al. (2013) and their discussion of "social capital" as a concept among privileged and underprivileged communities. Where there is a high quality and amount of social capital, for example, health outcomes tend to be better, which is usually among higher-income groups.

The authors note that unhealthy behaviors tend to be more prevalent in lower socioeconomic positions than those in wealthier populations. According to this finding, the generally lower health found in these classes would tend to be directly associated with a greater prevalence of unhealthy behaviors. According to the authors, 12% to 54% of mortality differences among socioeconomic levels can be ascribed to preventable risk factors such as smoking, drinking, diet, physical activity, and body mass index. A follow-up study conducted by Stringhini et al. (2010) showed that, including causes of death such as cancer and cardiovascular disease, there was a significantly higher prevalence of such deaths among lower socioeconomic positions than higher ones. It is important to recognize that risky behaviors such as overeating, drinking, and smoking are often stress related, which in turn could be related to the prejudice and access challenges suffered by social groups that find themselves unequal in terms of society in general. In other words, the generally higher stress levels related to poverty, prejudice, and inaccessibility to services and privileges may relate to higher degrees of unhealthy behavior. The most tragic effects of inequality, morbidity, and mortality relate to children born to parents from lower economic positions.

According to Sanders-Phillips et al. (2009), a child's experience of his or her society and environment is directly related to a sense of psychiatric and physical health, his or her control over these, and a general feeling of the world as fair or less fair. In populations that find themselves at the negative receiving end of inequality include children who experience not only the general vulnerability of childhood; their vulnerability is also exacerbated by racial discrimination. Such discrimination, especially for children, relate to feelings of powerlessness, inequality, and injustice. This has powerful psychological effects, which can, in turn, lead to physical effects, as mentioned above. This is especially dire for children within these populations, since they do not yet have the psychological prowess to properly internalize and mitigate the stress related to constant or even periodic inequality and injustice.

By investigating young children in these vulnerable populations, it becomes possible to establish root causes for high-risk behaviors such as smoking and drinking among adults, as well as for morbidity factors that could be related to psychological causes such as stress and feelings of powerlessness. According to Sanders-Phillips et al. (2009), for example, the perceptions suffered by children in at-risk populations may affect biological functioning such as the cardiovascular and immune systems.

The quality of the parent-child relationship can also be influenced by suffering inequality and injustice (Sanders-Phillips et al., 2009). Stress in adults, for example, can lead to a strain on the parent-child relationship, where the child in turn suffers related stress and related health outcomes. The relationship between stress and physical health has been established with strong evidence. Hence, both children and adults who suffer stress are likely to experience detrimental physical health outcomes as well, even when not engaging in risky behaviors such as excessive drinking, eating, or smoking.

Sanders-Phillips et al. (2009) continue to discuss various theories that can be used to describe and explain social inequality and its effects on physical health for children. The ecological theory, for example, focuses on the relationship between the child and the immediate as well as larger social environment can offer insight into his or her development in terms of physical and psychological health. Social-Stratification Theory concerns itself with the historical and current environment in terms of the social, political and cultural processes that influence the individual and his or her health. The theory of racial inequality and social integration relates closely to this, in that it focuses on the ways in which these factors influence psychological pathways by which mental and physical health is affected for those who experience prejudice and inequality.

The authors also address specific physical and psychological factors that are influenced by social inequality and racial discrimination, such as allostatic load, psychological functioning, and risk behaviors.

They point out, for example, that the chronic stress that is often part and parcel of a world in which inequality is part of daily life can lead to a greater likelihood of various disease and higher mortality for both adults and children. These are not necessarily related to high-risk behaviors, although there is a tendency towards a higher frequency of these as well. Such behaviors can then lead to a higher likelihood of children also engaging in such behaviors, ultimately leading to ill health effects.

Bambra et al. (2010) point out that, although there is a clearly established link between ill health outcomes and inequality factors such as access to health care, gainful employment, and equal education, most research focusing on health outcomes and interventions would do so by means of focusing on reducing high-risk behaviors. In other words, these interventions tend to fail in terms of taking in account underlying factors, such as access issues and related stress outcomes, that lead to risky behaviors or non-risk related health outcomes.

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