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The Effects of Socioeconomic Status to Health Inequality

Info: 1519 words (6 pages) Nursing Essay
Published: 11th Feb 2020

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The rapid development of medicine has greatly improved the health of all human beings, but the difference in socioeconomic status has led to inequality in health. And in the more developed countries, the gap is more obvious. People with higher socioeconomic status are able to pay for the daily medical expenses, and the education they receive allows them to understand the importance of health. Conversely, in people with low socioeconomic status, there are high rates of harmful behaviors such as smoking, lack of exercise, and long-term consumption of junk food. The existence of these behaviors makes it difficult to solve health problems. Although the government has made a series of health care reforms, inequality still exists..

Keywords: socioeconomic status, health inequality, effects

Social resources affect people’s health by affecting people’s access to basic health resources such as the environment, health, and nutrition. The difference in social class determines the distribution of national health in a pyramid-like way in terms of material and social psychological pressures – whenever a socioeconomic status is upgraded to a higher level, it corresponds to a healthier population. Education and occupation are also an important factor. A good educational background often helps people to get access to richer material resources, a comfortable and safe working environment, and develop healthy living habits. And the profession will not only affect the individual’s economic source but also affect the individual’s health through the working environment. In a society where social and economic resources are highly unevenly distributed, the health of all members, including the richest and most privileged, will be negatively affected. Reducing the uneven distribution of social and economic resources and reducing inequality in social and economic status are the most effective and fundamental ways to solve health inequalities and improve national health.

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In any society, there is always a gap in people’s health, which is largely linked to differences in socioeconomic status. With the development of medical technology and economic level, health inequality will be reduced. It is widely believed that the health status of groups with higher socioeconomic status is significantly better than those with lower socioeconomic status, and this trend has not changed with time. Although population life expectancy in different countries has generally increased with the development of socioeconomic and medical technology, mortality has decreased, but more is the benefit of the upper social population, which exacerbates health inequalities. The primary method used in one study was to group samples based on their income level or education level and then compare the mortality rates of each group. Deaths are classified according to cause, including common causes such as cardiovascular disease and cancer; causes associated with smoking; and causes associated with alcohol use (Mackenbach, et al., 2008 p. 2468). This study is a really good example of the extent to which health inequality is associated with socioeconomic status throughout Europe. To reduce these differences, people do need better health care systems and improved health-related behaviors such as income distribution.

The health effects of socioeconomic status also include children and adolescents. This stage of child growth is very important, and the impact may accompany their life. Those who had financial difficulties in their childhood families had a higher probability of long-term illness or self-perceived poor health in adulthood; those who had poor health in childhood had significantly lower education level and social stratum in adulthood, and their health status was also poor. As Elgar et al. (2015) analyzed, in many areas of adolescent health, socioeconomic inequalities have increased. These trends are consistent with the uneven distribution of income between the rich and the poor. The gap in adolescent health is still growing(p.2088). Sometimes, children’s health, physical and psychological development will be affected because they come from families with low socioeconomic status. In the past four decades, income inequality has steadily increased, thereby increasing relative poverty and consuming social capacity. The state supports health and leads to poor health in terms of mental illness, obesity, mortality and reduced child welfare. As a result, increased income inequality may lead to a deterioration in adolescent health and, over time, increase social inequalities in adolescent health. The most powerful determinants of global adolescent health are structural factors such as national wealth, access to education and income inequality(p.2089).

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Medical insurance is the core of national health policy, and its importance is self-evident. How health insurance affects health, especially whether it has different impacts on different social and economic groups, is a matter of great concern. For example, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a federal law signed by US President Barack Obama in 2010. The main purpose of the bill is to increase the coverage of the American people’s health insurance and reduce the cost of medical care in the United States. There are some serious long-term problems in US health care. First, there are millions of people without insurance. Second, people with insurance tend to pay more than other comparable countries. ACA aims to address these issues by providing affordable health care to more Americans.(Ben 2013). As Kawachi (2018) explained, an important outcome of the ACA expansion may be to reduce the income gap in the use of health care services (p.2). However, to the best of our knowledge, previous studies did not directly address the impact of ACA Medicaid expansion on socioeconomic inequalities in access to health services. In other word, ACA Medicaid expansion has a complex impact on socioeconomic disparities in health care utilization. The expansion of Medicaid may not be sufficient to address the socioeconomic differences in preventive services (Kawachi, 2014 p.2).

The most common indicators used to measure socioeconomic status are education, income levels, and occupational rank and status. The level of education is a good indicator of the skills, knowledge and cultural resources available to individuals, and it is likely to lead to better living and working conditions and a healthy lifestyle. Income can well reflect the position of individuals in the labor market and their material living standards. The professional class is the most critical indicator of socioeconomic status. Employment is at the heart of understanding social structure and career. In fact, education, income and occupation are interrelated, and they reflect the individual’s socioeconomic status in different aspects. Education expresses social respect to a certain extent; income reflects individual’s ability to consume, the ability to acquire other material resources; and the professional represents the individual’s social status. Socioeconomic status can often directly influence the key factors that determine an individual’s health.


  • Kino S, Kawachi I (2018). The impact of ACA Medicaid expansion on socioeconomic inequality in health care services utilization. PLoS ONE 13(12): e0209935. https://doi.org/10.1371/ journal.pone.0209935
  • Mackenbach, J. P., PhD., Stirbu, I., M.Sc, Roskam, A. R., M.Sc, Schaap, M. M., M.Sc, Menvielle, G., PhD., Leinsalu, M., PhD., & Kunst, A. E., PhD. (2008). Socioeconomic inequalities in health in 22 European countries. The New England Journal of Medicine, 358(23), 2468-81. doi:http://dx.doi.org.tacomacc.idm.oclc.org/10.1056/NEJMsa0707519
  • Elgar, F. J., Pförtner, T., Moor, I., De Clercq, B., Stevens, G. W. J. M., & Currie, C. (2015). Socioeconomic inequalities in adolescent health 2002-2010: A time-series analysis of 34 countries participating in the health behavior in school-aged children study. The Lancet, 385(9982), 2088-2095. doi:http://dx.doi.org.tacomacc.idm.oclc.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(14)61460-4

         BrainStuff – HowStuffWorks. (2013, October 7). How Does The Affordable Care Act Work?[Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vju70I6qSKk

         Ann Morning, Ph.D., Dorothy Roberts, J.D., Jo Phelan, Ph.D. [NIHOD]. (2014, November 5). Social Inequalities in Health [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=roAQHn5rEoQ


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