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Influences on our health

Social Health FactorsThere is a range of vital influences that determine our individual and community health.

For example, environmental factors and individual behaviors are responsible for close to 70 percent of all premature deaths in the United States of America.

Individual behaviors and biology influence our health because they interact with each other.

In addition, our biology and behavior also manipulates our physical and social environments.

Additionally, health policies and interventions can improve our health by focusing on factors that relate to our environment and individuals, such as access to quality health care.

So, what does this all mean to you and me?

Well, our lives and livelihood evolve around how healthy we are; our healthy habits and whether we can afford and have access to quality health care.

If we look at the influences on our health we can see how we have some control in the choices we make to live healthier and longer lives.

Influencing Factors on Our Health

There are four major influences to our health.  Our biological makeup is the first factor.

Biological Health FactorsWhat is biology?  Biology applies to an individual’s genetic makeup, like family history, physical or mental health difficulties, diet, alcohol or illicit drug abuse, physical activity, and aging–elements of which we are born with.

Behaviors are our individual reactions or responses to external conditions and internal stimuli.

Our behavior can be a result of a reaction to our biology, and conversely, our biology can stimulate changes in our behavior.

For instance, smoking tobacco products is a behavior that alters the cells in our lungs which results in changes to our biology in the form of emphysema, shortness of breath, or cancer.  On the other hand, these biological changes to our bodies may lead an individual to stop the behavior (smoking).

Another example of how behaviors and biology interact is how a motivated individual develops healthy eating habits, avoids tobacco, and is physically active which are all behaviors in an attempt to prevent getting heart disease which may be part of his or her family history (biology).

Social and Physical Influences on Our Health

Our personal choices combined with our physical and social environments encompass each of us and shape our behaviors.

Our social and physical environment has both a positive and negative effect on our lives even though we may not have control.

Healthy Habits and FactorsOur social environment consists of our interactions with family, friends, co-workers and community; including law enforcement, social institutions, schools, workplaces, and places of worship.

The social environment has an intense effect on individual’s health because of our customs, religious, spirituals, personal beliefs, and languages.

On the other hand, our physical environment is made up of what we see, hear, touch, smell, and taste.

It also consists of unseen or less noticeable hazards to our health like radiation, bacteria, water, or air pollution.  These hazards and infectious agents, (like lead paint, asbestos, leaking gas, poor sanitation, rodents, etc.), may be in our schools, workplaces, and homes which has an affect on individuals and the community, as well.

On the other hand, our physical environments may have safe places to play, work, and exercise which attributes to healthy habits and overall good health.

Policies and Interventions Influence Our Health

Health Care InterventionsPowerful and positive effects on our health are also found in policies and interventions.

They include health promotion campaigns to prevent smoking, policies and laws that require the use of safety belts and child restraints in trucks and automobiles, immunizations, and disease prevention services, to name a few.

Finally, access to quality health care is essential for improving the health of all individuals and communities.

It is important we understand that all the influences I’ve mentioned in this writing work hand-in-hand; they’re all related in enhancing the quality of life, extending life spans, and eliminating health disparities.

We have limited control of some of these influences on our health and life; however, our behavior, our healthy habits, and the choices we make have a significant bearing on how much strength we’ll have when faced with negative circumstances out of our immediate or direct control.

About the author: George Zapo, CPH is certified in Public Health Promotion and Education (Kent State University). George focuses on providing informative articles promoting healthy behavior and lifestyles.

13 comments… add one
  • Immunizations are an intervention todays parents are choosing not to give their children out of fear of contaminants potentially causing autism, for one.

    Since I was born in 1950 I had just but all of the “childhood” diseases except polio. I have a nursing degree, so I do understand the consequences of these diseases the immunizations are supposed to prevent.

    I have concerns that the diseases are coming back, now. Where do I research for the accurate answer to the dilemma young parents are facing, today about immunizations and the possible real side effects?

    • Thank you for the support you gave and continue to give as a result of the education you received in nursing, your empathy, and concern, Malika! I’m sure many share my appreciation of the support you offer.

      Researching for accurate answers is found at various locations on the Internet, as well as books. However, we must be prudent in cautious of where we get our information, as well as the validity of what we hear, view, and read.

      The National Institutes for Health (NIH), The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), The World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, WebMD, are some places to get ideas, suggestions, and links to other reputable sites.

      There are journals and scholarly articles available on the subject of immunization and other diseases; they provide research material, as well; both quantitative and qualitative studies.

      The Journal of Vaccines & Vaccinations, Immunization Action Coalition, The official journal of: The Edward Jenner Society, The International Society for Vaccines and The Japanese Society for Vaccinology, to name a few.

      I hope this helps you, Malika. The more you look, the more you’ll find. And then there’s the matter of determining the truth.

  • Hassan D Isah

    I love ur site

  • Lynn

    Great article George! You are so right, there are some factors that are beyond our control, but our behavior, and the choices we make are. It’s up to us to make the best of what we can control to try and lead healthy (in every sense of the word) lives.

    • Thank you, Lynn! It’s good for us to know there are people like you who recognize the importance of controlling our behavior, while recognizing some things are out of our control!

  • Radu

    Hey George,
    It’s great to meet you and your blog. You know, George is a popular name in the country I live in, Romania:)
    Regarding this post you pointed out some key aspects. Health is a vital part of our lives and affects the other areas as well. The people whom we interact daily can influence our health for the better or for the worse, it depends on how much we take responsibility.
    People are creatures of habits and consciously or not we will acquire some health habits along this journey called life.
    Health shouldn’t be a problem if we take time for the simple things: breathing, drinking a lot of water, eating more healthy food or even spiritual practices such as meditation, yoga, tantric sex or a simply letting go the emotions and thoughts that don’t serve us anymore.

    Thanks for sharing your tips. Look forward to come here again.

    Wish you an abundant and healthy 2012.

    • Thank you very much for your kind and encouraging words, Radu! You also brought up some valuable points in regards to healthy habits!

      I look forward to reading more of your insightful and motivating suggestions and experiences!

      Take good care…

  • Well hello George a very timely post for me, having tweaked my back today due to my decision to stop my exercise regime to create more time to focus on my business.

    My Chiropractor advised me that building stomach muscles is the best way to protect your back and now I am living proof that he was right.

    Everyday we make lifestyle choices that our family traits and personal history accentuate into problems for us that may not affect others. My father suffered from a weak back.

    As you point out poor health does not just happen it can be traced to the decisions we make and who we are.

    Here’s to a healthy 2012
    igor Griffiths

    • I’m sorry to hear about your recent injury. On the plus side, it’s good to know you have the support of your doctor and you know what to do to correct your recent ailment.

      It’s always good to hear from you. I appreciate you taking time out to read this article and provide a comment on your present situation.

      I look forward to hearing more from you and I’ll keep up with your blog posts, as well.

      Take good care…

  • Tina Bosela


    This article is very interesting as well as educational. You made a lot of good points.

    Thank you for looking out for our well-being.


    • Thank you and you’re welcome, Tina! I hope to continue to provide useful material we can all benefit from…

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