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Building blocks

What are the building
blocks of health and wellbeing?

Our health is shaped by the world around us – from good-quality homes, to stable jobs, social connections, and neighbourhoods with green space and clean air. These factors are what we call the building blocks of health and wellbeing. While access to health and social care impacts our health and wellbeing, these building blocks have a far stronger impact.

Health and howwe work

Having stable employment has been shown to boost health and wellbeing. Conversely,  a workplace with poor conditions, low pay, unstable hours, and where employees have a lack of control can cause health issues. This has a knock-on effect on our available resources, such as by affecting our ability to afford a decent standard of living.

Older people, disabled people, and single parents have less control over their employment and are more likely to be unemployed or in low paid, part-time work which can lead to increased stress and other mental health problems.

Over the past two years, people aged 50 to 54 cited stress as the number one reason for leaving the workforce altogether.

Health and ourcommunity

In order to thrive, people need a safe, supportive and accessible community. A community with no public spaces to meet up, inaccessible walking and cycling routes, and a lack of public transport can easily become fragmented.

It also means fewer social connections, which have been shown to be vital for health and wellbeing. Low-income households are less able to spend money attending community groups or travelling to meet friends and so are more likely to become isolated and face loneliness.

Health and wherewe live

Affordable, warm, and safe housing is a cornerstone of good health. However, millions of people in the UK are living in homes that do not meet basic health and safety standards, triggering ill health such as respiratory conditions and chronic stress, ultimately cutting lives short.

Some minority ethnic groups are more likely to live in unsuitable housing. For example, mixed White and Black Caribbean households (13%) are more likely to live in houses with damp than White British households (3%).

Due to the lack of affordable or social housing, thousands of people are also living in temporary accommodation or are considered street homeless. The average age of death for homeless people is as low as 41 years.

Health and ourenvironment

When we have access to nature, green spaces, and healthy waterways our health is improved. Spending time in these spaces has shown to boost mental health.

Air pollution and climate change have negative impacts on our health. There are around 6.7 million children living in areas of the UK where air pollution has breached legal limits. Human-made air pollution contributes to up to 36,000 deaths every year in the UK.

Health and the moneyin our pockets

The higher our income, the better chance we have to access all the building blocks of health and wellbeing. Low wages, an insufficient financial safety net, and rising inflation are driving more and more people into poverty. When we slip into poverty, our ability to control our health decreases. For example, people on the lowest incomes are less likely to be able to afford nutritional food, pay energy bills to heat their homes, and access the internet for education and employment opportunities.

Inequalities in different parts of life can lead to poverty. Disabled people face higher costs of living, are less likely to be educated to degree level, and are more likely to be unemployed. In 2017/18, around 4 million (31%) of the 13 million people with disabilities in the UK lived in poverty.

Health and how welearn and grow

Our education and experiences early in life shape the opportunities available to us later in life.

Growing up in poverty negatively impacts childhood development and can lead to mental illness in adulthood. Even before starting school, some children have experienced inequality in the building blocks of health.  Depending on where you live, you may not have access to a good school. As a result, children in the most disadvantaged areas are less likely to pass key GCSEs.

By the age of 30, people with the highest levels of education are expected to live four years longer than those with the lowest levels of education.