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Social Determinants of Recovery

Written by Robert Ashford, MSW, PhD-C
Published on October 8, 2020

Social Determinants of Recovery (SDOR) is very similar to the concept of social determinants of health (SDOH). Social determinants are the conditions in peoples’ environments which affect their health and wellbeing. These include a person’s immediate surroundings and circumstances, and all of the natural, political, cultural and social factors which shape them.

Social determinants can be thought of in two categories: protective factors and risk factors. Prevention, whether focused on physical or behavioral health, is all about increasing protective factors around people to reduce their risk factors. The ability to access and leverage these strengths and resources to counteract adversity is known as resiliency.

For individuals and families in recovery from substance use and other behavioral health disorders, many of the social aspects of their lives such as education, employment, housing, spirituality, financial literacy, etc. have a direct impact on their recovery. These are often as much victims of economic disparity, social injustice, or poor public health conditions as they are casualties of the disorder. By working on and improving these social determinants, recoverees may improve their chances of self-determined success in the recovery process. This can be accomplished by providing targeted, nonclinical interventions around social determinants of recovery, reducing risk factors and increasing protective factors and resiliency. 

In the community, direct support in these areas is often provided via peer-based recovery support services. By working to build recovery capital in the areas of social determinants, recoverees and their peers can strengthen recovery and significantly decrease the likelihood of recurrence of symptoms, while increasing quality of life overall. These services include the authenticity of organic social connection and nontraditional resources combined with expert navigation of community services. Social determinants of recovery are also supported by recovery allies and recovery-ready communities

Increasingly, healthcare professionals and policymakers are approaching substance use prevention and recovery through the lens of social determinants and public health integration.

Many of the social determinants of recovery can be influenced by civic action, including community involvement at the local level. Policies that improve the quality of life in our communities play an important role in the lives of families and individuals, and will increasingly move well within the spotlight as we review and reform our systems of care. 

Categories:  SUDI