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A review of the factors affecting our lives

The environment can affect health through physical exposures, such as air pollution OECD, 2012b.

Factors Affecting the Quality of Life

A large body of work has documented the effects of exposure to particulate matter solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air on cardiovascular and respiratory mortality and morbidity Brook et al.

Research has identified specific physiologic mechanisms by which these exposures affect inflammatory, autonomic, and vascular processes Brook et al. The effects of particulate matter on mortality appear to be consistent across countries. For example, a recent review of studies from the late 1990s to mid-2000s found a consistent inverse relationship between airborne particulate matter and birth weight in Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Italy, the Netherlands, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States Parker et al.

Another notable example is the evidence linking lead exposures to cognitive development in children Bellinger, 2008; Levin et al. The evidence of environmental effects of air pollution and lead has been reflected in legislation in many countries directed at reducing levels of these pollutants in the environment.

Factors Affecting the Quality of Life and the Illness Acceptance of Pregnant Women with Diabetes

Increasing attention has focused on the implications for health behaviors and social interactions that are created by the built environment. The identification of causal effects using these aggregate summaries raises a number of methodological challenges and does not allow one to identify the specific environmental attributes that may be relevant.

  • Share conclusions Ask students to share their ideas with the whole class;
  • There is, for example, little evidence that air pollution is a more severe problem in the United States than in other high-income countries Baldasano et al;
  • This programme now treats over half a million people with depression or anxiety disorders annually, of whom 50 per cent recover during treatment;
  • Large geographic disparities in toxic exposures to environmental hazards and in healthy food access have been repeatedly noted in U.

More recent work has attempted to identify the specific environmental factors that may be important to specific health outcomes, as well as the pathways through which these factors may operate. For example, the health of some nations is affected by their geography or climate. Page 195 Share Cite Suggested Citation: Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health.

The National Academies Press.

The big factors affecting life satisfaction are all non-economic

An important example is evidence that links proximity to healthy or unhealthy food stores with dietary behaviors and related chronic disease outcomes Babey et al. Another large body of work has documented how walking and physical activity levels are affected by access to recreational facilities, land use mix, transportation systems, and urban planning and design Auchinloss et al.

Across countries, studies have also shown that physical activity by children is associated with features of the built environment, including walking-related features, and physical activity resources Bringolf-Isler et al. The importance of residential environments to obesity and related conditions, such as diabetes, was recently highlighted by a randomized housing intervention: An important difficulty in comparing results across countries is that the proxy measure for the local food environment is often the type of food stores or restaurants available such as supermarkets or fast food outletsbut the extent to which these typologies reflect relevant differences in the foods actually available to consumers may differ significantly across countries.

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One recent review found that access to open space parks and other green spaces in neighborhoods was associated with physical activity levels in both the United States and Australia Pearce and Maddison, 2011. Page 196 Share Cite Suggested Citation: Unfortunately, the study was not designed to identify the specific environmental features responsible for the observed effect.

A range of other physical environmental features have been linked to other health outcomes.

  • Academic performance is the outcome on which most existing research has focused, and it is profoundly affected by family income;
  • An important example is evidence that links proximity to healthy or unhealthy food stores with dietary behaviors and related chronic disease outcomes Babey et al;
  • In addition, we should try to prevent mental illness before it occurs, so a second initiative is preventive — a four-year curriculum called Healthy Minds, one lesson a week;
  • As noted in Chapter 5 , certain forms of drug use which is often linked to other social environmental features also appear to be more prevalent in the United States than in other high-income countries;
  • Remind students that there is an important difference between standard of living, which is a measure of economic well-being, and quality of life, which includes standard of living as well as other factors, such as health, happiness and security.

For example, the density of alcohol retail outlets has been linked to alcohol-related health complications Campbell et al. Transportation systems and other aspects of physical environments that influence driving behaviors are also related to injury morbidity and mortality Douglas et al.

Living in socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhoods as a proxy for a range of environmental exposures has been linked to higher rates of injury in both adults and children Cubbin et al. Social Environmental Factors Factors in the social environment that are important to health include those related to safety, violence, and social disorder in general, and more specific factors related to the type, quality, and stability of social connections, including social participation, social cohesion, social capital, and the collective efficacy of the neighborhood or work environment Ahern and Galea, 2011.

What also seems important is the stability of social connections, such as the composition and stability of households 7 and the existence of stable and supportive local social environments or neighborhoods in which to live and work. A network of social relationships is an important source of support and appears to be an important influence on health behaviors.

Page 197 Share Cite Suggested Citation: Features of social environments that may operate as stressors including perceptions of safety and social disorder have been linked to mental health, as have factors that could buffer the adverse effects of stress e. One mechanism through which the social environment can enhance health is through social support. Social support has appeared in many but not all studies to buffer the effects of stress Cohen and Wills, 1985; Matthews and Gallo, 2011; Ozbay et al.

Resilience to the adverse health effects of stress has also been tied to factors that could influence how one perceives a situation threat versus challenge and how one responds to stressors Harrell et al. One theory for the tendency of some immigrant groups to have better health outcomes than might be expected on the basis of their incomes and education see Chapter 6 is the social support immigrants often provide one another Matthews et al.

Studies have shown consistent relationships between social capital and self-reported health status, as well as to some measures of mortality Barefoot et al. Social capital depends on the ability of people to form and maintain relationships and networks with their neighbors. Spatial Distribution of Environmental Factors In addition to considering differences between the United States and other countries in the absolute levels of environmental factors, it is also important to consider how these factors are distributed within countries.

Levels of residential segregation shape environmental differences across neighborhoods Reardon and Bischoff, 2011; Subramanian et al. Page 198 Share Cite Suggested Citation: Perceptions and stereotypes about area reputation, local demand for products and services, and the purchasing power of residents may also influence the location of health-relevant resources.

Physical environmental threats such as proximity to hazardous sites may be more prevalent in low-income or minority neighborhoods, a concern of the environmental justice movement Brulle and Pellow, 2006; Evans and Kantrowitz, a review of the factors affecting our lives Mohai et al. These neighborhoods may also lack the social connections and political power that can help remedy adverse conditions.

Other Environmental Considerations The panel focused its attention on the role of local physical and social environments as potential contributors to the U. Nor did the panel examine whether neighborhood conditions exert a greater influence on access to health care in the United States than in peer countries.

However, these conditions are important to health. For example, the school environments of children, adolescents, and college students can affect diet, physical activity, and the use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs Katz, 2009; Wechsler and Nelson, 2008. Workplaces have also long been recognized as important determinants of health and health inequalities, occupational safety, and access to preventive services Anderson et al.

Physical working conditions e. Exposure to job strain exhibits a strong social gradient, which influences inequalities in the health of workers Bambra, 2011. Page 199 Share Cite Suggested Citation: Other working conditions and work-related policies for U.

Other important differences in work-related policies include employment protection and unemployment benefits, as well as family and sickness leave see Chapter 8. There is scant literature comparing social and physical environmental features across countries.

  1. For more details, see.
  2. Our analysis provides an explanation of this. Features of social environments that may operate as stressors including perceptions of safety and social disorder have been linked to mental health, as have factors that could buffer the adverse effects of stress e.
  3. However, these conditions are important to health. Students take turns reading and taking notes after each portion is read.
  4. Students take turns reading and taking notes after each portion is read. Perceptions and stereotypes about area reputation, local demand for products and services, and the purchasing power of residents may also influence the location of health-relevant resources.
  5. One mechanism through which the social environment can enhance health is through social support. This article has been cited by other articles in PMC.

Here we provide selected examples of the ways in which levels or distributions of physical and social environments relevant to health might differ between the United States and other high-income countries. Physical Exposures Few data are available to make cross-national comparisons of exposure to harmful physical or chemical environmental hazards. There is, for example, little evidence that air pollution is a more severe problem in the United States than in other high-income countries Baldasano et al.

The heavy reliance on automobile transportation in the United States is linked to traffic levels, which contribute to air pollution and its health consequences Brook et al.

Page 200 Share Cite Suggested Citation: Data on population exposures to air pollution across countries are relatively scarce OECD, 2008b. One available measure is the concentration of particulate matter less than 10 micrometers in diameter PM-10: An important factor that influences a range of environmental features relates to patterns of land use and transportation.

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This characteristic has promoted dispersed automobile-dependent development patterns Transportation Research Board, 2009 with consequences for population density, land use mix, and walkability Richardson, 2004all of which may have health implications.

A review of the factors affecting our lives 2008, the United States had 800 motor vehicles per 1,000 people compared with 526 in the United Kingdom, 521 in Sweden, 598 in France, and 554 in Germany World Bank, 2012b. Cities in the United States tend to be less compact and have fewer public transportation and nonmotorized travel options and longer commuting distances than cities in other high-income countries Richardson and Bae, 2004.

Many European countries have strong antisprawl and pro-urban centralization policies that may contribute to environments that encourage walking and physical activity as part of daily life Richardson and Bae, 2004. For example, aside from their direct links to injury mortality see Chapter 1violence and drug use may be indirect markers of social environmental features that affect other health outcomes. As noted in Chapters 1 and 2homicide rates in the United States are markedly higher than in other rich nations.

There are fewer data to compare rates of other crimes across countries. As noted in Chapter 5certain forms of drug use which is often linked to other social environmental features also appear to be more prevalent in the United States than in other high-income countries. In particular, particles that are less than 2. Environmental Protection Agency, 2007. Page 201 Share Cite Suggested Citation: At least one study of cross-national differences in social capital found that the United States ranked at an intermediate level compared with other high-income countries in measures of interpersonal trust; the study also found that the United States ranked higher than many other countries on indicators of membership in organizations Schyns and Koop, 2010.

A previous National Research Council 2011 report and a paper prepared for that study Banks et al. However, the focus of that paper was on the social isolation of individuals rather than on social cohesion or social capital measured as a group-level construct. This figure is one of the lowest in the OECD 2012a.

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According to the World Gallup Poll, people in the United States are less likely than people in other high-income countries to express confidence in social institutions, and Americans also have the lowest voting participation rates of OECD countries. In an interesting link between physical and social environments, Putnam 2000 has argued that increasing sprawl could contribute to declining social capital in the United States because suburban commutes leave less time for social interactions.

However, it remains unclear whether sprawl helps explain differences in levels of social capital, or health, across countries. Spatial Distribution of Environmental Factors Research in the 1990s demonstrated that people of low socioeconomic status were more likely to experience residential segregation in the United States than in some European countries Sellers, 1999.

Page 202 Share Cite Suggested Citation: Given the established correlation between neighborhood, race, and socioeconomic composition and various health-related neighborhood resources in the United States, this greater segregation could also result in greater exposure of some population sectors to harmful environments Lovasi et al.

Although studies of residential segregation do not directly assess environmental factors, to the extent that segregation is related to differences in exposure to environmental factors, countries with greater segregation may also experience greater spatial inequities in the distribution of environmental factors, resulting in greater health inequalities and possible consequences for overall health status.

Studies that use measures of area socioeconomic characteristics as proxies for environmental features have generally reported similar associations of area features with health in both the United States and other countries van Lenthe et al.

  1. One mechanism through which the social environment can enhance health is through social support. The same is true in Australia and Germany.
  2. Given the established correlation between neighborhood, race, and socioeconomic composition and various health-related neighborhood resources in the United States, this greater segregation could also result in greater exposure of some population sectors to harmful environments Lovasi et al.
  3. In the 1960s, the Coleman Report in the United States told us that parents mattered more than schools. For comparing more than two groups, the Kruskal-Wallis test was used.

At least two studies have suggested that spatial variation in health-related resources may have very different distributions in the United States than in other countries. A review of spatial variability in access to healthy foods found that food deserts—areas with limited proximity to stores that sell healthy foods—were more prevalent in the United States than in other high-income countries Beaulac et al. A New Zealand study found that area deprivation was not always consistently associated with lack of community resources including recreational amenities, shopping, educational and health facilities Pearce et al.

This finding is in sharp contrast to studies of the United States, which have found associations between neighborhood socioeconomic disadvantage and the absence of resources that are important to public health Diez Roux and Mair, 2010.

Large geographic disparities in toxic exposures to environmental hazards and in healthy food access have been repeatedly noted in U. Similar geographic disparities may exist for other environmental features.

These barriers may inhibit physical activity for parts of the population, resulting in worse overall health. Levels of safety and violence may also be more strongly spatially segregated in the United States than in other countries, resulting in areas with greater exposure to violence and its harmful health consequences. Page 203 Share Cite Suggested Citation:

  • Previous work examined the disproportionate effects of negative as compared to positive economic growth on national levels of subjective well-being, the ways in which happiness data are predictive of voting behaviour and electoral outcomes, and the development of cognitive and non-cognitive skills during childhood;
  • However, it remains unclear whether sprawl helps explain differences in levels of social capital, or health, across countries;
  • The study was performed between January and April, 2013;
  • There are fewer data to compare rates of other crimes across countries;
  • The identification of causal effects using these aggregate summaries raises a number of methodological challenges and does not allow one to identify the specific environmental attributes that may be relevant.