Human health is affected by lived experiences, both past and present. The environments we encounter throughout our lives, therefore, shape how we respond to new challenges, how we maintain a healthy immune system, and even how we respond to treatment and rehabilitation. Early in life and throughout adulthood, social experiences-such as exposure to various forms of adversity-can alter how cells in our body function, with far-reaching consequences for human health, disease, and treatment. This Perspective highlights studies from an ever-growing body of literature on the social determinants of health, with a focus on exposure to social adversities, such as social isolation, discrimination, or low social status, experienced both early in life and adulthood and how they variably impact health. By focusing on recent observational studies in humans and experimental studies on social nonhuman animals, this article details how social adversity can become biologically embedded in our cells at the molecular level. Given that humans are social animals, it is no surprise that social adversity can negatively impact our health, and experimental animal studies have helped us to uncover some of the causal mechanistic pathways underlying the link between social adversity and health outcomes. These molecular consequences can have far-reaching implications and, when combined with our growing knowledge on the social determinants of health, should inform how we approach treatment and rehabilitation.
- Social Determinants of Health
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation