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Social Determinants

Our mental health is influenced by many factors including life experiences, workplace or other environments, and the social and economic conditions that shape our lives. These social and economic conditions are called the social determinants of mental health and are some of the most important factors that impact on mental and physical health. Research shows that the social determinants can be more important than health care or lifestyle choices in influencing health (Mikkonen and Raphael 2010).

In Canada, the social determinants of health include:

  • Aboriginal status
  • Disability
  • Early life
  • Education
  • Employment and working conditions
  • Food insecurity
  • Health services
  • Gender and gender identity
  • Housing
  • Income and income distribution
  • Race
  • Sexual orientation
  • Social exclusion
  • Social safety net
  • Unemployment and job security (Mikkonen and Raphael 2010; Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care 2012, 13).

When it comes to mental health, three social determinants are particularly significant:

  • freedom from discrimination and violence
  • social inclusion
  • access to economic resources (Keleher and Armstrong 2006).

Different communities or populations have different experiences with the social determinants of mental health. The impact of these differences can be health inequities: entire communities with poorer health or mental health than the general population.

To learn more about health equity, visit the Equity page.

How CMHA Ontario is addressing this issue

CMHA Ontario partnered with four other provincial organizations to prepare Mental Health Promotion in Ontario: A Call To Action which called on the provincial government to set an agenda for mental health promotion in Ontario.  The paper identifies social inclusion, freedom from discrimination and violence and access to economic resources as the three most significant determinants of mental health.  A range of effective evidence-based strategies are identified as options.

CMHA Ontario continues to provide policy research and advise related to healthy public policy through our submissions, backgrounders, and policy papers on the social determinants of health, including housing, income and employment.

For more information, please read about our work on specific social determinants of mental health.


Resources

CMHA Ontario and partners identified social inclusion, freedom from discrimination and access to economic resources as the three most significant determinants of mental health in Ontario in Mental Health Promotion in Ontario: A Call To Action.

Juha Mikkonnen and Dennis Raphael explore the social determinants of health that impact Canadians’ health in Social Determinants of Health: The Canadian Facts.

The Adler Institute (US) has developed a project and video about the social determinants of mental health.

The Sudbury District Health Unit has prepared a video explaining the role of the social determinants of health entitled Let’s Start a Conversation About Health and Not Talk about Health Care At All.

VicHealth (Australia) has written extensively on the social determinants of mental health and mental health promotion.