Determinants of Health

1. Socioeconomic Status (SES)

Low-income Canadians are more likely to die earlier and to suffer more illnesses than Canadians with higher incomes, regardless of age, sex, race and place of residence.1

Socioeconomic status (SES) is a term to describe the position an individual or group has in society. That position depends on things like work, income, wealth, schooling and housing.

Health tends to improve with prosperity and social standing. Better housing and food come with more money. Limited options and unending stress can make women more vulnerable to diseases that affect their immune and hormonal systems.

Women with HIV are more likely to be poor, isolated and understandably stressed out. The following paints a vivid picture of how HIV, income and social status can make women sick:

In a study of women living with HIV in British Columbia, 30% reported incomes of less than $10,000, and 21% reported an income between $10,000 and $19,000 … The number one stressor, reported by 61% of the 110 participants, was “not having enough money.”2

Among the other income-related stressors that the participants experienced:

  • 40% were concerned about insufficient money for medications and therapies
  • 38% were concerned about the lack of affordable housing
  • 24% feared losing their job (only 25% were employed)
  • 52% feared rejection or discrimination
  • 29% were concerned about not having enough emotional support


More from Shared Health Exchange

1What Makes Canadians Healthy or Unhealthy? Underlying Premises and Evidence Table, Public Health Agency of Canada, online as of June 2011
2What Is The Impact of Poverty on the Life of Someone with HIV?, Canadian AIDS Society information sheet #6, available online as of June 2011