Social factors key to ill health


Social factors – rather than genetics – are to blame for huge variations in ill health and life expectancy around the world, a report concludes.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has carried out a three-year analysis of the “social determinants” of health.

The report concludes “social injustice is killing people on a grand scale”.

For instance, a boy living in the deprived Glasgow suburb of Calton will live on average 28 years less than a boy born in nearby affluent Lenzie.

See life expectancy in Glasgow compared with other places
Similarly, the average life expectancy in London’s wealthy Hampstead was 11 years longer than in nearby St Pancras.

The research also shows that a girl in the African country of Lesotho is, on average, likely to live 42 years less than a girl in Japan.

In Sweden, the risk of a woman dying during pregnancy and childbirth is one in 17,400, but in Afghanistan the odds are one in eight.

The report, drawn up by an eminent panel of experts forming the WHO’s Commission on the Social Determinants of Health, found that, in almost all countries, poor socioeconomic circumstances equated to poor health.

The differences were so marked that genetics and biology could not begin to explain them.

Toxic combination

The authors write: “(The) toxic combination of bad policies, economics, and politics is, in large measure responsible for the fact that a majority of people in the world do not enjoy the good health that is biologically possible.”

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