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Lupus: Social Variables and Health Outcomes Essay

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Updated: Jun 2nd, 2021

Abstract

This paper presents information about lupus and related health outcomes from the perspective of social variables, including gender, race, and social class. The report provides general information on the illness and its prevalence, as well as discussion on how it affects minority and non-minority groups, people of different genders, and individuals of various social classes. The paper also discusses governmental organizations’ interventions aimed at improving the population’s health outcomes from the perspectives of social variables.

Introduction

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that can cause severe damages to the body’s tissues. Currently, the exact causes of the illness are unclear; the condition does not have specific symptoms and may manifest itself differently in all individuals. However, there is a link between several social variables, including race, social class, and gender, and the health outcomes in people living with the disease. This paper studies this relation, discussing lupus, its symptoms, and prevalence in detail. The report also refers to the government organizations that address the problem from the perspectives of several social variables.

The Link Between Social Variables and Health Outcomes

Health Outcomes and Race

Many factors, including individual, national, community, and cultural ones, may determine the health statistics among the population. Although each of these factors is significant, sociologists pay particular attention to social factors, including class, gender, and race. They believe that there a direct link between these social variables and health outcomes. Race can be considered one of the most significant aspects affecting individuals’ health. For instance, the report by Williams, Priest, and Anderson (2016) reveals that ethnic and racial minorities have a higher rate of illnesses and impairment than the average in their societies globally. These groups of the population experience the earlier onset of symptoms and, often, the poorer quality of healthcare services.

The primary reasons for such outcomes are discrimination within the healthcare system and on interpersonal levels and racial segregation (Williams et al., 2016). These core problems lead to variations in the level of education and employment for minority populations, which, in their turn, result in lower income rates and purchasing power. Stereotypes, stigma, and prejudices contribute to reduced societal opportunities, leading to poorer health outcomes. Thus, a person’s race can be a determinant factor of their health outcomes, as it plays a significant role in individuals’ access to care and the quality of services.

Health Outcomes and Social Class

The social status or class can also determine health outcomes regardless of a person’s race (Williams et al., 2016). Individuals of lower social class have more limited access to care, as they may not have sufficient insurance coverage or experience discrimination in hospital settings. It means that the higher the social status a person has, the more likely they are to have a good general health state. Thus, individuals’ social class can help scientists to predict their health outcomes.

Health Outcomes and Gender

Gender is another social variable that can affect health outcomes significantly. For instance, Manandhar, Hawkes, Buse, Nosrati, and Magar (2018) report that, globally, women live approximately 4.5 years longer than their male counterparts do; in some countries, this gap reaches over ten years. From the sociological perspective, the possible reasons for it are that men are more likely to take risks and adhere to the behaviors perceived as masculine in society (Manandhar et al., 2018).

For instance, they may avoid condom use, delay timely hospital visits, and not seek treatment for their symptoms. Moreover, men’s and women’s responses to the signs of diseases differ too. Women are more prone to discussing concerning symptoms with medical professionals (Manandhar et al., 2018). Another issue that should be addressed is that there are transgender and gender non-conforming individuals. Their health outcomes are also generally lower than those of cisgender people due to structural discrimination in society and medical institutions (Downing & Przedworski, 2018). Consequently, it is possible to predict health-related outcomes based on an individual’s gender, along with their social class and race.

Health Outcomes and Other Social Variables

It is necessary to mention that other social variables affect health outcomes, too. For instance, the level of education and housing are among the factors that can improve or decrease the person’s health state. For example, Aidala et al. (2016) report that a lack of stable and adequate housing is a significant barrier to medical care. Davies, Dickson, Smith, van Den Berg, and Windmeijer (2018), in their turn, note that educated individuals tend to have fewer comorbidities and are generally healthier than those having lower educational levels are. Finally, as mentioned above, lower income levels can prevent individuals from seeking care, as they may not be able to afford services, which leads to poorer health outcomes.

Lupus

Lupus, also known as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune rheumatic disease. It has many nonspecific symptoms and can affect multiple organ systems (Cao et al., 2015). The disease develops because the immune systems starts to attack tissues in the body, leading to tissue damage. In the United States and Europe, the incidence rates range between 1 to almost 25 cases per 100,000 individuals per year (Batool, Ahmad, Saeed, & Farman, 2016).

In America, 150 in 100,000 adults develop lupus per year. Moreover, 65% of individuals experience the onset of SLE between the ages of fifteen and fifty-five, while 20% of individuals develop the disease before sixteen years of age (Batool et al., 2016). Lupus affects older people, too, as 15% of all patients are more than 55 years old. SLE affects women more frequently than it affects men; the impact of social variables of the illness will be discussed below in detail.

The symptoms of SLE may include oral ulcers, photosensitivity, malar rash, fever, joint pains, fatigue, hair loss, seizures, nose sores, fluid accumulation, and ankle swelling (Batool et al., 2016). The most common manifestations of the disease are prolonged fatigue and arthralgia, which are present in more than 90% of patients. As the symptoms vary from person to person, it may be challenging to make a diagnosis. Another problematic factor is that the exact causes of SLE are still unclear (Fernandez & Kirou, 2016). However, it is possible to predict individuals’ health outcomes in relation to lupus based on social variables.

The Impact of Social Variables on Lupus

Impact of Race

Race is known to affect health outcomes in patients with lupus significantly. The study by Gergianaki and Bertsias (2018) shows that racial minorities are five to nine times more likely to be diagnosed with SLE and two to three times more prone to developing the disease. In addition, the symptoms in some ethnicities, such as Hispanic, appear more acute; the organ damage in some minorities is also more severe than in white individuals. Moreover, the prevalence of lupus nephritis is higher in ethnicities like Asians, in which it reaches more than 60% compared to around 25% in the white population (Gergianaki & Bertsias, 2018). Thus, it is possible to say that racial and ethnic minorities are more prone to poorer health outcomes related to SLE compared to the non-minority population.

Impact of Gender

Gender is another social variable that can lead to poorer health outcomes from the perspectives of SLE. As mentioned above, females are more likely to develop lupus than males (Gergianaki & Bertsias, 2018). In general, the incidence rate is approximately 10:1 in adults and 3:1 in children. It is vital to mention that the manifestations of SLE vary among men and women, too. For instance, in males, the symptoms may be more severe than in females, and the onset of the illness may appear more abrupt (Gergianaki & Bertsias, 2018). As hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is believed to trigger the development of lupus as well, it is possible to conclude that the disease may be more prevalent in women and transgender individuals than in men.

Impact of Social Class

A low social class can lead to poorer health outcomes associated with SLE, too. People of underserved groups can be exposed to inappropriate living conditions and housing and lead a less healthy lifestyle in general. Gergianaki and Bertsias (2018) report that lifestyle and environmental factors can be triggers for the onset of the illness. Moreover, as people of a lower social class are more likely to be engaged in drug use, they are at a higher risk of developing lupus (Lee et al., 2015). Thus, it is possible to predict the potential health outcomes of an individual based on their social class.

Impact of Other Social Variables

As mentioned above, the level of education and housing affect the prevalence of diseases, including lupus, as these factors are significant barriers to medical care and can lead to a higher risk of comorbidities (Davies et al., 2018). Age is one of the other social variables that affect the prevalence of the disease. For instance, lupus can develop at any age but starts later in men than in women (Gergianaki & Bertsias, 2018). In children, SLE appears less likely than in adults; only around 15% of all cases of lupus are diagnosed in people of young age. The later onset of lupus is associated with less severe symptoms, but its outcomes are poorer due to comorbidity.

Government Interventions

Government Interventions: Class

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (n.d.) is one of the government organizations that address lupus from the perspectives of class. The organization contributes to improving health outcomes for people of lower social status by offering them to join clinical trials for free. These interventions help the government to identify the potential causes of the disease while allowing individuals to seek medical assistance for their symptoms. Furthermore, the organization strives to raise awareness about the disease, offering publications on the subject and outlining the medical professionals individuals should visit to be diagnosed.

Government Interventions: Gender

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (n.d.) aims at improving health outcomes from the perspectives of gender. It is dedicated to raising awareness of the link between female gender and the presence of SLE. For instance, the organization has established the Office on Women’s Health that works on improving health outcomes in females. The agency provides sources for women that they can use to learn more about lupus and its effects on other conditions, such as pregnancy, as well as specifically designed services.

Government Interventions: Race

The Lupus Foundation of America (2019) is one of the agencies that aims at improving health outcomes related to SLE among minority groups. The organization is concerned with the effects of lupus on women of color and other representatives of underserved populations. The agency works with the National Resource Center to study the causes and prevalence of the disease. It also collects donations to fund the research and education on SLE. The studies the organization performs are designed to enhance diagnosis for individuals living with lupus, testing new treatment measures, and addressing the quality of care. Moreover, the Lupus Foundation of America (2019) has established the first research program to study the prevalence of illness in children.

Conclusion

The report shows that race, gender, and class affect health outcomes related to lupus, along with other social variables, such as the level of education, housing, economic status, and age. Racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to develop the disease compared to the non-minority population. Women are also more prone to SLE than men, and transgender individuals are at higher risks of experiencing its symptoms, too.

There are various reasons for the impact of these social variables from a sociological viewpoint. They include racial and ethnic discrimination, lower income levels, an inability to afford healthcare services, and adherence to particular behaviors based on gender. The government organizations that work on improving health outcomes for the population are the Lupus Foundation of America, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

References

Aidala, A. A., Wilson, M. G., Shubert, V., Gogolishvili, D., Globerman, J., Rueda, S., … Rourke, S. B. (2016). Housing status, medical care, and health outcomes among people living with HIV/AIDS: A systematic review. American Journal of Public Health, 106(1), 1-23.

Batool, S., Ahmad, N. M., Saeed, M. A., & Farman, S. (2016). Pattern of initial clinical manifestations of systemic lupus erythematosus in a tertiary care hospital. Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences, 32(5), 1066-1070.

Cao, L., Tong, H., Xu, G., Liu, P., Meng, H., Wang, J.,… Jin, J. (2015). . PloS One, 10(4). Web.

Davies, N. M., Dickson, M., Smith, G. D., van Den Berg, G. J., & Windmeijer, F. (2018). The causal effects of education on health outcomes in the UK Biobank. Nature Human Behaviour, 2(2), 117-125.

Downing, J. M., & Przedworski, J. M. (2018). Health of transgender adults in the US, 2014–2016. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 55(3), 336-344.

Fernandez, D., & Kirou, K. A. (2016). What causes lupus flares? Current Rheumatology Reports, 18(14). Web.

Gergianaki, I., & Bertsias, G. (2018). . Frontiers in Medicine, 5. Web.

Lee, J. O., Hill, K. G., Hartigan, L. A., Boden, J. M., Guttmannova, K., Kosterman, R.,… Catalano, R. F. (2015). Unemployment and substance use problems among young adults: Does childhood low socioeconomic status exacerbate the effect? Social Science & Medicine, 143, 36-44.

Lupus Foundation of America. (2019). . Web.

Manandhar, M., Hawkes, S., Buse, K., Nosrati, E., & Magar, V. (2018). Gender, health and the 2030 agenda for sustainable development. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 96(9), 644-653.

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. (n.d.). . Web.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Lupus. Web.

Williams, D. R., Priest, N., & Anderson, N. B. (2016). Understanding associations among race, socioeconomic status, and health: Patterns and prospects. Health Psychology, 35(4), 407-411.

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