Social determinants of health

A person’s wellbeing is influenced by the social determinants of health.

Box 1: Social determinants of health

The concept of ‘social determinants of health’ recognises the potent and complex effects of the social environment on health outcomes.

The World Health Organization (WHO) considers the circumstances in which people are born, live and work as being the most important social determinants of health. These include income, power, education and social support.

The social determinants of health shape the immediate determinants of health, including biomedical factors and health behaviours. This means that a person’s health advantage or disadvantage is influenced by broader social and economic conditions under which they live (for more information, see Social determinants of health).

According to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework, over one third of the health gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians, can be attributed to differences in the social determinants of health (income, housing education and employment) (AIHW 2020).

Better health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples require an understanding that the factors influencing health are complex and interrelated, and that addressing social determinants of health outside the health sector, and cultural determinants of health, is also fundamental (AIHW 2020).


AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) (2020) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework 2020 summary report. Cat. no. IHPF 2. Canberra: AIHW.