Genes, income and education, behavior, environment or medical care: which of these factors really affects the health of the population? We analyzed the main determinants of health and came to the conclusion that prosperity increases income, the level of education of the population, infrastructure and respect for the environment. Moreover, thanks to greater prosperity, the population is more attentive to their health. All these elements promote health in the population.
Wealthy people live healthier lives than poorer ones. This theory holds up not only in the comparison between rich and poor countries, but also in countries where everyone has good basic medical care. How do you explain this statement? Is it because of income, environmental conditions, public health benefits or individual behavior? We took a closer look at these four factors, and the results show how prosperity leads to better health.
What Determines the Health of the Population?
A person’s health is influenced by several factors: among them are genes, behavior and lifestyle, socio-economic conditions, environmental conditions and the health system. These determining factors are the starting points for the prevention and promotion of a healthy lifestyle. But to what extent do they really affect the health of a population?
- Behavior and Lifestyle: 37.6 %
Nutrition and movement as well as addiction to alcohol, sex, sports, games, mobility, etc. have the greatest impact on health. If socio-economic status is taken into account in addition to behavior, two-thirds of health is influenced by factors that are not included in the classic health sector. For this reason, the WHO has created the slogan “Health in all policies”. However, this principle could become problematic if, for health reasons, it was to impose additional political and administrative obligations.
- Socio-Economic Conditions
Education, unemployment, income, inequalities, poverty, crime, housing and social understanding are all elements that affect health. Living and working conditions account for about a fifth of all health factors. In general, however, income and health evolve similarly internationally: income and life expectancy have progressed together over the years. The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) states in a statement: the lower a person’s income, the worse his state of health and the shorter his life expectancy. The lower a person’s income, wealth and education, the more likely they are to get sick.
- Genetics: 22%
Personal predisposition also plays a fundamental role in health. This is the genetic baggage that determines the constitution and vulnerability to diseases, whose influence was once estimated at 10%, but now estimated at more than 20%. Policy measures in the health sector do not allow to influence genetic predisposition. In the future, medical care will be able to act more effectively than in the past.
- Physical Factors and Environmental: Almost 10%
Climate, catastrophes, pollutants, such as radioactivity, and the “objective” probability of accidents, for example on the road, affect the health of the population to a limited extent.
- Medical Care: 11%
Access to medical care and its quality (diagnosis, treatment and processes) have a moderate impact on the health of the population. Health innovations are only made possible if there is economic growth, and these innovations also benefit the poorest countries thanks to the spread of technological progress. In developing countries, income thus determines access to medical care. A higher income therefore guarantees access to both preventive measures, such as vaccines or screenings, and medical therapies.
Prosperity Benefits Health
Why is it above all the prosperity of a country that determines the health of the population? Positive economic development is a causal factor in improving the health of the population. Economic growth is even decisive: prosperity increases income, the level of education of the population, infrastructure and respect for the environment. Moreover, thanks to greater prosperity, the population is more attentive to their health. That is why a good public health strategy is inseparable from a coherent economic policy.