Humans are subjected to various settings, from the workplace to geographical and social environments. While every type of environment affects us in one way or another, the social environment contributes hugely to our health and well-being. If you’re part of a positive social environment, it will significantly benefit your overall health. In comparison, a hostile social environment will lead to a decline in your health and well-being. Our social environment is our immediate surroundings and all the people who are part of that surrounding, be it our family, friends, or colleagues. From a kind neighbor to a fussy shopkeeper, all are a part of our social environment and can profoundly affect our mental and physical well-being.
Moreover, our living conditions, education, and the income we generate are also components of our social environment. And all of these social determinants play a massive role in determining our health and well-being. For instance, people living in poor social settings tend to be more at risk of catching diseases and illnesses. In addition, they’re more likely to fall prey to adopting destructive behaviors and engage in activities that severely impact their mental and physical health.
For instance, when youngsters spend a considerable amount of time in the company of others involved in substance abuse, they’re at a high risk of becoming addicts themselves. Eventually, they fall prey to peer pressure and get compelled to adopt their ways. Fortunately, both negative and positive aspects are at play within the same social environment. If someone is a victim of substance abuse, dedicated health groups assist them in learning how to live sober and stress-free. These groups provide customized and confidential treatment to addicts tailored to their unique needs.
Therefore, the social environment can be both negative and positive and affect health and well-being likewise. Let’s look at the leading social environment factors that influence our overall health.
Undoubtedly, family is the most crucial factor (unit) in our social environment. Since we spend most of our time with parents, siblings, and children, they, directly and indirectly, influence our behavior and health. Having a loving and considerate family is indeed a blessing and is favorable for our well-being. On the other hand, having a hostile and disturbing family may adversely affect our health. For example, dealing with aggressive family members may lead to stress and depression. Stress and depression is the leading causing of many diseases and illness. What’s more, people who belong to unstable families are twice as likely to develop a mental or physical health condition.
A dysfunctional family environment and mental health conditions are closely linked. For instance, children from broken families are more likely to develop mental health problems. In family dynamics, children spend the most time with their parents. When they constantly see their parents engaged in conflicts, this shatters their confidence and trust. As a result, they feel vulnerable and stressed, leading to physical health problems.
Having a close circle of friends is instrumental to our health and well-being whereas, loneliness and the absence of friends in our life are detrimental. When you’re doubtful and battle insecurities, your friends are the ones who boost your confidence and help you realize your self-worth by offering reassurance and praise. Likewise, friends help us achieve our goals and offer support wherever possible. For example, going for a run to reduce weight may seem like a daunting task but, this task becomes fun-filled and enjoyable in the company of a friend. This way, you and your friend also embark on a healthy and productive journey.
Now and then, you may face stressful situations in life. And that’s when friends and allies can offer you sound advice and emotional support. They can help you deal with stress and anxiety by simply listening to you. In their company, you can let out all the frustration you had kept bottled up inside you. Sometimes all we need is a comforting shoulder to cry on and a listening ear to get out of stressful situations. So, we can say that healthy friendships boost physical and mental health.
Lack of quality education and a poor social environment are interconnected and adversely affect our health and well-being. People who receive good quality education and training tend to land better jobs and feel more satisfied with their accomplishments than those who are poorly educated or entirely uneducated. On the other hand, people who are not well educated are more likely to spend their later lives suffering. They cannot make enough money and hence deprive themselves of necessities such as healthcare and proper housing. Their sense of achievement becomes relatively lower than those who are well-educated. In addition, they feel disconnected from the high-achievers.
This lack of achievement leads to low self-esteem and demotivation. As a result, people tend to become victims of high-risk diseases such as depression, heart diseases, diabetes, etc.
Social status is another prominent factor determining our social environment, and it tremendously affects our health, especially mental health. It refers to the level of social value a person or group holds in society. For instance, individuals living in poverty-ridden regions cannot access nutritious food, proper healthcare facilities, and suitable housing schemes. This deprivation increases the risk of dwindling health conditions and unstable well-being.
Likewise, when low-income families cannot provide nutritious food to their children, they become undernourished. According to research, undernourishment is the leading cause of high mortality rate in children. It’s also responsible for many severe health conditions in children, such as a higher risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart diseases.
In short, the social environment is as significant as the physical environment in establishing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. A positive social environment is conducive to our stable mental and physical health. Having a stable family, supportive network of friends, proper education, and a relatively improved social status contribute to a positive social environment. In comparison, unstable family life, absence of close and trustworthy relationships, and poor social status lead to stress, depression, and high-risk diseases.