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Demographics & Statistics Longevity Longevity and Age Management

Social factors have bigger effect on longevity than genes

11 years, 3 months ago

3211  0
Posted on Sep 02, 2008, 6 a.m. By Rich Hurd

A three-year-long analysis of the “social determinants” of health by the World Health Organization (WHO) has led them to the conclusion that social factors - not genetics - are to blame for the huge variations in ill health and life expectancy seen around the world, a report concludes.

A three-year-long analysis of the “social determinants” of health by the World Health Organization (WHO) has led them to the conclusion that social factors - not genetics - are to blame for the huge variations in ill health and life expectancy seen around the world, a report concludes.

The report, which was complied by a panel of experts forming the WHO's Commission on the Social Determinants of Health, found that a girl born in Japan is, on average, likely to live for 42 years longer than a girl born in the African country of Lesotho. Inequities in life expectancy and morbidity between countries have been reported for many years, however this report is the first to highlight the large variations in life expectancy that also occur within different regions of countries and suburbs of cities throught the world. For example, a boy living in Calton, a deprived suburb of the Scottish city of Glasgow will, on average, live for 28 years less than a boy born in Lenzie, an affluent suburb a couple of miles away.
 
In short, the report showed that poor socioeconomic circumstances equated to poor health. Furthermore, the differences in morbidity and longevity were so significant that genetics were deemed insignificant in comparison. It also revealed that wealth alone does not determine the health of a nation. Several countries, including: Cuba, Costa Rica, China, and Sri Lanka, have managed to achieve good levels of health despite their relatively low national incomes.  

The authors wrote: “[The] toxic combination of bad policies, economics, and politics is, in large measure responsible for the fact that a majority of people in the world do not enjoy the good health that is biologically possible." To combat the problem of health inequity, they recommend that governments follow the shining example of Nordic countries that have introduced policies which encourage equality of benefits and service, full employment, gender equity, and low levels of social exclusion.

Closing the gap in a generation: Health equity through action on the social determinants of health. Commission on Social Determinants of Health. World Health Organization. Full report from WHO website.

 

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