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What are some factors that determine mental health?

Cynthia Diefenbeck
Advanced Practice Nursing
Mental health and illness are influenced by a complex interplay of factors -- some that can be controlled or modified, and others that cannot. It is often helpful to think of mental health as being dually influenced by risk factors as well as protective factors. Risk factors may include family history of mental illness or adverse childhood events, while protective factors may include the presence of a nurturing parent/guardian and other positive social supports. 
Mental health is determined by socio-economic and environmental factors:
  • Multiple and interacting social, psychological, and biological factors, just as health and illness in general.
  • The clearest evidence is associated with indicators of poverty, including low levels of education, and in some studies with poor housing and poor income. Increasing and persisting socio-economic disadvantages for individuals and for communities are recognized risks to mental health.
  • The greater vulnerability of disadvantaged people in each community to mental health disorders may be explained by such factors as the experience of insecurity and hopelessness, rapid social change, and the risks of violence and physical ill-health.
  • A climate that respects and protects basic civil, political, socio-economic and cultural rights is also fundamental to mental health promotion. Without the security and freedom provided by these rights, it is very difficult to maintain a high level of mental health.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.