According to the World Health Organization, social determinants of health are “Nonmedical factors that influence health outcomes. They are the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life. These forces and systems include economic policies and systems, development agendas, social norms, social policies, and political systems.” In other words, social determinants of health refer to how a person’s environment – from their family and neighborhood all the way up to the larger society they belong to – affects their health.

In recent years, more research has been done specifically looking at the social determinants of mental health, with some focused on how environmental and societal factors influence children in particular.

Below are three excellent resources to help you gain a deeper understanding of these factors:

Social Determinants of Mental Health in Children and Youth

This comprehensive 2022 resource document from the American Psychiatric Association (APA) was created as a guide for psychiatrists, but  contains a lot of facts, information, and research about the social determinants of mental health specific to children and youth that may be of interest to other mental health providers, parents, child-serving professionals from other fields, anyone seeking to better understand these factors.

Download the APA’s PDF Resource Guide here.

The Social Determinants of Mental Health

Michael T. Compton, MD, MPH and Ruth S. Shim, MD, MPH have published a book and journal article (in Focus: The Journal of Lifelong Learning in Psychiatry, Volume 13, Issue 4, 2015) of to provide an “overview of the social determinants of mental health, discuss why they deserve special emphasis, and provide recommendations for how psychiatrists and other mental health clinicians can incorporate this perspective into their work both within and outside of clinical settings.” While not specific to children’s mental health, this is an excellent resource for understanding how environmental and systemic factors affect individual mental health.
Find the journal article here.

Social Determinants of Health: The Impact of Racism on Early Childhood Mental Health

Published in the journal Current Psychiatry Reports, Issue 23 (2021), authors Obianuju O. Berry, MD (NYU), Amalia Londono Tobon, MD (Brown University), and Wanjiku F.M. Njoroge, MD (UPenn) review recent research focusing on the impact of racism on infant and early childhood mental health and socioemotional development.

Read the abstract here.