Socioeconomic Status (SES)

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Socioeconomic Status Definition

Socioeconomic status (SES) is evaluated as a combination of factors including income, level of education, and occupation. It is a way of looking at how individuals or families fit into society using economic and social measures that have been shown to impact individuals' health and well being.

Socioeconomic status and health are closely related, and SES can often have profound effects on a person's health.

These effects are due to differences in ability to access health care as well as dietary and other lifestyle choices that are associated with both finances and education.

Socioeconomic status is usually categorized into high SES, middle SES, and low SES.

Socioeconomic Status and STDs

A number of studies have found links between lower socioeconomic status and the risk of acquiring STDs; however, the understanding of the reasons for this link is not without controversy. Research on adolescent sexual health, in particular, suggests that for many people the link has less to do with income and more to do with other factors -- such as how many parents are living in the home or parental education levels. The link between adolescent sexual behavior and STD risk and SES is also confounded by the link between SES and race. Young people who are not White generally have higher STD risk for a number of reasons, including the overall higher prevalence of various STDs in non-White communities.

However, another big risk factor associated with STD risk, and particularly HIV risk, is the SES status of the community in which individuals live. Low SES communities are less likely to have access to doctors, or even STD clinics. This means that there is less access to screening and treatment. That's followed, unsurprisingly, by a higher STD prevalence in the community and a greater risk of exposure and transmission.

A lack of access to regular healthcare is so strongly associated with HIV risk, because people with new infections, who have not yet been diagnosed, are thought to be at the greatest risk of passing on their infection. In addition, recent studies have shown that early HIV treatment is a highly effective form of prevention. Therefore, a lack of healthcare in the community directly impacts HIV risk for those living there.


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