[Submitted by Stephen Pirie, Belief Institute, 2nd Dec 2008]
This article is an introductory analysis of the factors determining health, and how awareness of these factors can form a useful guide for employers.
These factors are derived from the long-term research conducted by Sir Michael Marmot, who has found that one's 'psycho-social ecosystem' is at least two thirds* responsible for the degree of health, longevity and well-being (and the lack of, in the case of disease, depression and anxiety).
A checklist of considerations is provided to help the development of workplace policies. Our programs have been specifically developed to focus on, and enhance the "psycho-social" factors that lead to health and wellbeing.
* According to the research, factors such as smoking, obesity, poor diet, lack of exercise and hereditary issues account for only 1/4 to 1/3 the total cause for ill-health and premature death.
Social Determinants of Health
When considering the nature of employee health within organisations, it is worthwhile to expand the context to include as many factors as possible that may impinge, directly or indirectly on the quality of health.
In the 2003 World Health Organization’s report on social determinants of health, Dr Michael Marmot and Dr Richard Wilkinson reported that:
“Even in the most affluent countries, people who are less well off have substantially shorter life expectancies and more illnesses than the rich. Not only are these differences in health an important social injustice, they have also drawn scientific attention to some of the most powerful determinants of health standards in modern societies. They have led in particular to a growing understanding of the remarkable sensitivity of health to the social environment and to what have become known as the social determinants of health."1
The research into social determinants of health is sufficiently broad and rigorous to link social factors with corresponding levels of health and life expectancy.