Factors Leading To Ill Health Health And Social Care Essay

Just recently, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC) in the United States reported that type two diabetes has a high incidence in the southern part of the country known as "diabetes belt"( qtd. from webmd, 2011). This area included 15 southern states which show dramatic rates of people affected by diabetes according to the report. Indeed, such news provoked various reactions from the general public because they want to know what led to such health condition in that area. The CDC gave details of their findings, and health authorities are creating programs that would curb the growth of such health condition, especially in those states. This leads to this paper’s investigation on what social and psychological factors can lead to ill health. Before exploring such factors, it is critical to understand first some concepts that would make the discussions more enlightening.

The World Health Organization has defined health as " a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity". Since 1948, this definition has remained. Health is also related to the term "wellness". The National Wellness Institute defined wellness as "is an active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a more successful existence". People want to be healthy because they know that health is very important; once someone gets sick, everything else does not matter anymore. However, this idea is contrary to what is happening today to a large percent of the population. The incidence of

cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and respiratory problems have been on the rise for many developed countries. Apparently, most people know the importance of health, but they fail when it comes to making healthy choices in life. Looking closely at the concept of wellness, it is implied that people must choose the right diet, pursue an active lifestyle and manage stress effectively. Unfortunately, the statistics show a contrasting report as WHO reports the top diseases in the world:

Source: Top ten causes of death. Fact Sheet no 310/November 2008

This report focused on broad income group and categorized the countries as : low-income, middle income, and high-income. Nevertheless, heart diseases and other respiratory disorders were cited as the top causes of death in any income group. In most cases, smoking is the leading cause of health problems because it can lead to respiratory diseases and increase the rate of heart disease (cdc.gov).

The report also states the fact that regardless of income structure, people succumb to the aforementioned health problems. This also supports the UK Department of Health stand on health inequalities "Many inequalities in health are a preventable consequence of the lives people lead, the behaviours and lifestyles that cause ill health, many of which show a stark relationship with socio-economic factors" ( Health Inequialities,2008,p.7). Indeed, people have a choice

when it comes to pursuing a healthy lifestyle. Although the government is continuously creating programs to accommodate the health inequalities in the low-income group, citizens can choose to live healthier lifestyle rather than demand for adequate healthcare. After all, many of these health problems were poor habits such as smoking, alcoholism, bad eating habits, living a sedentary lifestyle among many others. It is then the interest of this paper to understand the psychological and social factors that lead to ill health. One good approach of analyzing such factors would be to use a health model.

The Multifactorial Model

The Multifactorial Model is a new health model in health psychology that explains why and how health conditions develop. This health model was popularized by Dr. Hoover of the National Cancer Institute. According to the Multi Factorial model, the following factors must be taken into account when analyzing how a disease develops: biological, psychological, environmental, and socio-cultural and stressors. Likewise, the model asserts that no single factor is responsible for the development of a disease according to Hoover. In most diseases, biological factors such as heredity, age and gender can increase the probability of contracting chronic conditions. There are certain groups of people prone to heart disease but this doesn’t mean that individuals in this group cannot avert the situation. The model presents other possible elements such as diet, stressors, or even access to health care that can prevent or increase the likelihood of the disease. The aforementioned elements may belong to any of the other factors, which are not biological at all.

Using the Multifactorial Model, a person who has a family history of diabetes can prevent developing the disease by making modifications in one’s lifestyle. The person can become health conscious being aware of such fact and resort to exercise and limited dietary intake. Thus, the person does not develop the disease as compared to his parents or grandparents. Biological factors include family history, age, gender, pain and discomfort, congenital disabilities definitely influence the likelihood of a disease but that does not equate to hopelessness since prevention is still possible using other factors.

Socio-cultural is another important factor that can worsen or prevent the development of a disease. According to a research known as Reaching for a Healthier Life, social factors heavily affect the health of an individual. These include: neighborhoods, employment conditions, race and personal behaviors with an emphasis on the environment as the influential factor ( John and Catherine Macarthur foundation, p.8). This statement also supports the multi-factorial health model which asserts that if a person has quality access to health care, works in a company that promotes health and belongs to an average sized family, then it helps the person develop reduce the incidence of disease. Even religious beliefs that prohibit smoking and drinking can help a person to pursue a healthy lifestyle.

Neighborhood conditions are given emphasis by the research because the built environment and social environment are interdependent; thus, neighborhoods that are less affluent presents more health risks to its inhabitants (p.17). One of the most pronounced observations about low-income neighborhoods is that these areas have more liquor stores than the supermarket thereby making alcohol accessible to the population. Furthermore, the health

services in such areas are fewer than affluent communities. Presently, the government is creating measures to enhance delivery of health services to such districts.

Income as well as employment conditions are social factors that can lead to ill health. An area with many jobless people is characterized by heavy drinking and smoking, since they are idle. Since smoking increases the rate of heart attack in most people, it is expected that unemployed people are most likely to acquire heart diseases. Furthermore, low income limits a family’s choice to choose healthy food. Typically, these families consume too much sugar or carbohydrates to stave off the hunger. Junk food is also typical among young people, especially when the only recreation they can afford television watching. Overeating can result to obesity and eventually diabetes. Indeed, negative social factors can raise the predisposition to health risks, which is the present challenge to health programs and policies.

Psychological factors can also lead to poor health. The Multifactorial model also considers psychological factors such as anxiety, depression, personality traits, self-efficacy, optimism or pessimism, attributional style, behavior, and other intrinsic factors within the individual .Lately, most medical experts have recognized the fact as proven by various studies that psychological factors like stress definitely worsen biological factors. Even people with no history of heart disease within the family can possibly die from a heart attack. Conditions such as being constantly subjected to stress, sedentary lifestyle and even having a Type A personality can lead to heart conditions. In fact, even common conditions such as ulcers and constipation can be caused by stress. If people do not find ways to handle stress properly, they could suffer from an emotional breakdown. Some people get depressed when they feel helpless about difficult circumstances. On the other hand, some individuals bravely face the adversities but develop allergies or other psychosomatic conditions because the body reacts adversely to stress.

In a study made by Talbott and Kraemer ( 2007 ) , they explained that people who are subjected to stress succumb to moderate depression which makes the brain adjusted to having high levels of cortisol. Once the stressor is relieved, the brain cannot perform effectively. The authors also cited the case of people who have been given high-cortisol drugs result develop " memory problems and depression " ( Talbott , Kraemer 2007). Depression further complicates the treatment process for any disease. Some would result to alcohol or drug abuse to relieve the stress aggravating the situation. In the case of heart diseases, understanding psychological factors plays an important role in helping humanity lessen the incidence of such deadly diseases.

Psychiatrists and counselors can offer solutions to people through counseling so their chances of coping with stressful events in their lives can increase. Stress management techniques can be taught to people who encounter highly stressful situations in their jobs on a daily basis. In fact, some top hospitals already offer Complementary Alternative Medicine such as yoga or other meditation techniques that can supplement the medications taken by people with heart diseases (Kabatt-Zinn, Massion, et.al, 1992) So far, studies made on this area reveal very positive results showing that meditation calms a person and reduces anxiety. There are even studies showing that a person’s religious belief can significantly improve their health condition because the people change their perspectives towards life. A classic example would be the state of Utah where people have lower incidence of heart diseases due to the moral standards imposed by Mormonism.

Aside from heart diseases, stress as a psychological factor can also increase a person’s risk in having cancer. Cancer can possibly happen because studies cite that stress can damage DNA. According to Salovey et.al (2000), individuals that are often depressed and anxious are more susceptible to problems in the immune system thereby increasing the person’s risk to problems like viral infections or even cancer. Once cancer spreads to other parts of the body, the person can die a few years later. Indeed, health professionals should look into psychological factors when diagnosing illnesses. . Doctors often prescribe medicines that are costly for the patients; more so, surgical intervention such as angioplasty or heart bypass would eventually be the ultimate solution.

Now that psychological and social factors have been identified to cause illness, what can people do? Although stress is a regular part of being alive, this doesn’t mean that people would wallow in emotions and let depression happen. They can prevent the situation from worsening by seeking stress management techniques. Another good option that would benefit both mind and body is to exercise. A study by Babyak et.al (2000) asserts the positive effects of exercise on depression:

One of the positive psychological benefits of systematic exercise is the development of a sense of personal mastery and positive self-regard, (which we believe) is likely to play some role in the depression-reducing effects of exercise ( p. 636 )

Hence, a person can start helping himself by making modifications in one’s lifestyle. Walking a couple of blocks every morning and reducing intake of unhealthy food such as soda can already create significant impact in a person’s health. Eventually, weight loss would ensue and other vital health indicators such as blood pressure and blood sugar would drop to normal levels. The seemingly complicated situation is resolved by the person’s change in attitude.

In the case of alcoholism, the government must focus on aggressive public health campaign against smoking instead of spending money on respiratory diseases research. The various studies presented in this paper has demonstrated how people can subject themselves to health risks through poor health habits. If the government would not step up in pushing its citizens to change their lifestyle, the economy would be hurt by spending too much taxpayer’s money on diseases caused by alcoholism, smoking or overeating. However, this does not happen overnight especially when media is at the forefront of influencing people what to consume. The government needs more radical changes through innovative health programs that would attack this systemic health concerns. The war against health problems could be won by the health officials but the real battle is within the individual.