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BLOG & NEWS The Connection between Unmet Social Needs, Stress, and Health

The Connection between Unmet Social Needs, Stress, and Health

Can unmet social needs for housing or food impact an individual’s overall health? Research results from a recent study completed by the Centene Center for Health Transformation show that the more unmet social needs someone has, the more barriers to self-care, worse health behaviors, and worse health outcomes they experience. The study’s results also confirm a significant correlation between unmet social needs and high levels of stress.

Study participants were Medicaid beneficiaries from 35 states. More than 50% reported lack of money for unexpected expenses. Of the seven social needs measured, this was the highest unmet need reported, followed by not enough space in the home and not enough money for necessities. Higher levels of unmet needs were associated with increased stress levels, which were in turn related to overall health. Both unmet needs and higher stress were significantly associated with health behaviors, including smoking, diet, and exercise.

Results of the study indicate that interventions to help identify and manage unmet needs may improve health by lowering stress levels and increasing positive health behaviors. The authors note that future work is needed to investigate the specific pathways by which meeting people’s needs may improve particular health outcomes, including lowering their stress and improving their overall health.

Read the full study, “Social needs and health-related outcomes among Medicaid beneficiaries,” published by Health Education and Behavior which takes a deeper dive into seven different unmet social needs and how people with higher levels of these unmet needs experience barriers to self-care, worse health behaviors, and worse health outcomes.

About The Centene Center for Health Transformation

The Centene Center for Health Transformation™ is a community-corporate-academic healthcare partnership that advances life-centric health research to improve lives so that communities can thrive. For more information regarding the Centene Center for Health Transformation, visit https://www.centenecenter.wustl.edu.

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The Centene Center engages in research across five focus areas to influence positive health outcomes and decrease healthcare costs. Find out more about our studies, initiatives, and researchers here.

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