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Relationship between Socioeconomic Status and Health

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The global health concerns and cases continue to rise daily, especially to the current pandemic of 2020, Covid-19. Health organizations, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), directs worldwide health concerns within the United Nations’ system, and leads other organization partners in global health responses by ensuring the safety of the air people breath, food they eat, water they drink, and medicines and vaccines needed. The aforementioned proper health necessities are inaccessible to other countries due to poverty. However, in the sociological perspective, theories show that global health status is being determined by the person’s social status, income, and other mediating factors: selection theory, drift theory, and social determinants theory.

The worldwide inequality in socioeconomic status has developed multiple global concerns, especially in the United States of America. The country is named as the richest country in the world, but has the most unequal distribution of income in which developed and is currently developing into discriminating stagnant social classes in society, negatively affecting access of people with lower income into one of the most important basic needs of a person – health care. The significant role of income to the structure of the society, and the state of its components, has grown bigger as the income inequality expands. In the United States of America, the health state of a person has become dependent on socioeconomic status, and vice versa. Socioeconomic status negatively affects the health of the poor population, while health also affects the person’s socioeconomic status.

The drift explanation, also known as social drift, is a term used in sociology which refers to movement down the social scale consequent on long-term sickness. The disability limits the options of the person’s career choice from few to none, bringing a domino reaction from unemployment, to low income, to low socioeconomic status. In the development of society, a hierarchical system organizes the structure of the community or nation, wherein their position in the society is defined by their socioeconomic status, including their access to privileges, opportunities, freedom, basic rights, and basic needs. Drift theory further explains where the part of human’s basic needs includes good health, but the health of the people in the United States has been greatly influenced by their financial capabilities. According to data from the 2019 National Health Interview Survey, 8.3% of the adults aged 18 and over failed to obtain needed medical care due to cost. The data presented shows that the high cost of healthcare, in addition to low income, people are forced to place health at the bottom of the priority list when they are suffering a sickness, and often overwork themselves in order to maintain or improve their socioeconomic status. Aside from access to health care, a good-healthy diet, and properly sanitized shelter also contributes to the overall health of a person, which mostly requires quite a sum of money, especially as the food prices are going higher. According to the United Nations, approximately 25,000 people die from hunger or hunger-related diseases every day in the whole world due to poorly sanitized or absence of shelter, and deprivation of clean water and proper nutrition. This concerning issue has become widespread across the globe, to developing countries, such as the United States, and especially to third world countries.

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On the other hand, selection theory states that connection between socioeconomic status and health status also has existing mediating factors that might affect both statuses. The genetics of a person is one of the most common examples of the mediating factors affecting health and socioeconomic status. For instance, people of African ancestry have higher risk of stroke compared to other ethnicities. Additionally, vitamin D from the sun is known to be absorbed by the body through the skin, and the absorption varies to the skin tone of a person; the lighter the skin, the better absorption of vitamin D to the body. Therefore, people of darker skin are most prone to vitamin D deficiency due to their slow metabolism of the nutrient from the natural sunlight. The presented examples show that these disabilities limit the options of the person’s career choice from few to none, resulting in low paying job or unemployment, to low income, to low socioeconomic status, turning to the same cycle.

Lastly, social determinants theory states that a person’s health can be determined by their individual social status, whether it be physical ability, mental ability, socialization, and so forth. Humans develop and grow in society through nurture, the process of learning, and nature, the environment of learning. The nature, or the environment of the society, develops the person’s social status in which, according to this theory, can affect health, well-being, and quality of life. The connection between health and marriage have been proven to bring positive effects to both, marriage to health or health to marriage. Married people tend to live longer and have better physical and mental health, for example, lower risk of having heart attacks and strokes, and lower chance of experiencing depression. Likewise, a low social status causes negative impacts to health. Individual and group concerns such as racism, educational attainment, job position, position in society, physical and mental ability, and other determinants to one’s social status directly affects the status of a person or an entire group’s health, positively or negatively.

The three main theories attempt to explain the connection and the effect of the society’s state, and the position of the people belonging to the society, to their health conditions. Drift theory identifies the connection and impact of a person's socioeconomic status to their health, and the person’s health towards their socioeconomic status. While selection theory explains that within the connection of socioeconomic status and health, there are existing factors mediating between the two. Lastly, social determinants theory implies that social status also contributes to the health condition of a person. The theory shows the connection of health to sociology, and how social health is able to either damage or improve physical and mental health.

Works Cited

  1. ‘Social Drift’. A Dictionary of Sociology. 16 Oct. 2020. Retrieved November 06, 2020, from
  2. About WHO. (2020). Retrieved November 05, 2020, from
  3. FastStats - Access to Health Care. (2020, October 30). Retrieved November 06, 2020, from
  4. Hales, D. (2017). Chapter 15: Major Diseases. In ‘​An Invitation to Health: The Power of Now​’ (17th ed., pp. 468-471). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.
  5. Holmes, J. (n.d.). Losing 25,000 to Hunger Every Day. Retrieved November 06, 2020, from
  6. Howard, V. (2014, June 01). Reasons Underlying Racial Differences in Stroke Incidence and Mortality. Retrieved November 06, 2020, from
  7. National Center for Health Statistics (US). Health, United States, 2011: With Special Feature on Socioeconomic Status and Health. Hyattsville (MD): National Center for Health Statistics (US); 2012 May. Introduction. Available from:​
  8. Parva, N., Tadepalli, S., Singh, P., Qian, A., Joshi, R., Kandala, H., . . . Cheriyath, P. (2018, June 5). Prevalence of Vitamin D Deficiency and Associated Risk Factors in the US. From
  9. Robert H. Shmerling, M. (2020, June 24). The Health Advantages of Marriage. Retrieved December 06, 2020, from
  10. Social Determinants of Health. (2020). Retrieved November 06, 2020, from
  11. The UN Must Lead Way at World Food Summit to Cut the 24,000 Deaths Each Day from Hunger. (2014, May 18). Retrieved November 06, 2020, from
  12. WHO Foundation Established to Support Critical Global Health Needs. (2020, May 27). Retrieved November 05, 2020, from
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Relationship between Socioeconomic Status and Health. (2023, September 08). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 1, 2024, from
“Relationship between Socioeconomic Status and Health.” Edubirdie, 08 Sept. 2023,
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