This paper explores a relationship that exists between behavioral, psychological, socio-cultural, and lifestyle factors to major causes of mortality. The paper supports the argument that social, cultural, behavioral, lifestyle and psychological determinants of health are important in predicting mortality and longevity. The paper concludes that since most of these health determinants interact to cause death, it is important to check patients for several variables to be able to curb the deaths that may result from ignoring either of the variables.
Humans are complex beings with complicated systems. Thus, their illness can result not just from a single factor, but from a myriad of factors. Much research has been done by previous researchers on the prospective linkages between health, physical negative affective states, and mortality. Furthermore, well-being has always been linked to greater health, and longevity of life. In analyzing this relationship, it has emerged that people behave in relation to the way they think.
Research done by Knoops K. T. et al., (2004) concluded that socio-economic differences in mortality occur due to a variety of factors. Therefore, they are likely to persist even with improved health risk behaviors among the economically disadvantaged. However, achievable behavioral changes can highly reduce the deaths that result from these factors.
Relationship between health determinants and causes of mortality
Behavioral and lifestyle factors
A huge body of literature suggests that lifestyle behaviors such as smoking, diet, and physical inactivity have major influences on health (Neil et al., 2001). A report by Knoops et al. (2004), indicated that old men and women (70 to 90 years) in 11 eleven European countries who adhered to a Mediterranean diet, did not smoke, did not use alcohol, and had moderate physical activity, had their mortality rate reduced by 50 percent. It has been suggested that about fifty percent of deaths that results from the leading causes of mortality are due to behavior. For example, it is estimated that tobacco consumption accounted for over 30% of all cancer deaths, reproductive and sexual behavior at 7%, diets at 35%, and alcohol at 3%.
In addition, psychological adjustments variables such as depression, self-esteem, and life satisfaction have been mentioned as the results in much of the ‘gerontological’ research. Although these investigations have often indicated that psychological adjustments are important variables, none has indicated the exact relationship between these variables and physical death. According to Cohen and Herbert (1994), psychological variables may only have a direct impact on health if they affect the immune system. The studies do. However, they indicate that these adjustments have significant impacts on the old.
In fact, variations in psychological adjustments have been recorded in some non-clinical studies as being associated with mortality. For example, the old persons are severely affected by deteriorating health; a sense of being a burden, loss of family, friends, and familiar activities may exacerbate the will to live among older people (Palmore, 1982 cited in Knoops K. T. et al., 2004).
Socio-economic differences are other important health variables that determine mortality and longevity. Many medical scientists do not dispute the central role of the culture and society in disease prevention and cure or the social origins of diseases (Neil et al., 2001). In fact, many generalizations have been made, for instance, on parental education, children whose parents are educated have been found to have high levels of survival compared to those born to uneducated parents with the same income and material wealth as those of the educated parents (Mensch, Lentzner & Peterson, 1985)
In summary, the causes of illness are influenced by several interacting factors that produce significantly different results. For example, individuals already suffering from an illness are likely to be physically inactive and change their diets as well as causing higher mortality in such individuals. It is therefore important to identify and contain the mediating pathways to mortality rather focus on one determinant.
Cohen, S., & Herbert, T. (1996). Health psychology: Psychological factors and physical disease from the perspective of human psychoneuroimmunology. Annual Review of Psychology, 4(7), 113-142.
Knoops K. T. et al., (2004). Mediterranean diet, lifestyle factors, and 10-year mortality in elderly European men and women: The HALE project. JAMA Journal, 2(92), 1433–1439.
Mensch, B., Lentzner, H., & Preston, S. (1985). Socio-economic differentials in child mortality in developing countries: United Nations, Department of International Economic and Social Affairs. New York: Taylor and Sons.
Neil, S. et al., (2001). Integrating behavioral and social sciences with public health. New York: American Psychological Association.