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Sociology of health and illness

The sociology of health and illness , alternatively the sociology of health and wellness or simply health sociology , examines the interaction between society and health. The objective of this topic is to see how social life affects morbidity and mortality rate , and vice versa.

The sociology of medicine limits its concern to the patient-practitioner relationship and the role of health professionals in society. Health, or lack of health, was once merely attributed to biological or natural conditions.

Sociologists have demonstrated that the spread of diseases is heavily influenced by the socioeconomic status of individuals, ethnic traditions or beliefs, and other cultural factors. This topic requires a global approach of analysis because the influence of societal factors varies throughout the world. This will be demonstrated through discussion of the major diseases of each continent. These diseases are sociologically examined and compared based on the traditional medicine , economics , religion , and culture that is specific to each region.

While it is extremely problematic in certain areas, in others it has affected a relatively small percentage of the population. There are obvious differences in patterns of health and illness across societies, over time, and within particular society types. There has historically been a long-term decline in mortality within industrialized societies, and on average, life-expectancies are considerably higher in developed , rather than developing or undeveloped , societies.

Continuous changes in economy, therapy , technology and insurance can affect the way individual communities view and respond to the medical care available. These rapid fluctuations cause the issue of health and illness within social life to be very dynamic in definition.

Advancing information is vital because as patterns evolve, the study of the sociology of health and illness constantly needs to be updated. Humans have long sought advice from those with knowledge or skill in healing. Paleopathology and other historical records, allow an examination of how ancient societies dealt with illness and outbreak.

Rulers in Ancient Egypt sponsored physicians that were specialists in specific diseases. Among his contributions to medicine was a textbook on the treatment of wounds, broken bones, and even tumors. Stopping the spread of infectious disease was of utmost importance for maintaining a healthy society.

From his account it is shown how factors outside the disease itself can affect society. The Athenians were under siege and concentrated within the city. Major city centers were the hardest hit. The disease attacked people of different ages, sexes and nationalities. Ancient medical systems stressed the importance of reducing illness through divination and ritual. Health regimes in ancient India focused on oral health as the best method for a healthy life.

Those that were most concerned with health, sanitation and illness in the ancient world were those in the elite class. The present day sense of health being a public concern for the state began in the Middle Ages.

The funding for research and the institutions for them to work were funded by governments and private firms. The early goal of public health was reactionary whereas the modern goal is to prevent disease before it becomes a problem. This was the prevailing view in the late 20th century. It has also been found that heredity has more of a bearing on health than social environment, but research has also proved that there is indeed a positive correlation between socioeconomic inequalities and illness.

The Sociology of Health and Illness looks at three areas: the conceptualization, the study of measurement and social distribution, and the justification of patterns in health and illness. By looking at these things researchers can look at different diseases through a sociological lens. The prevalence and response to different diseases varies by culture.

When measuring the distribution of health and illness, it is useful to look at official statistics and community surveys. Official statistics make it possible to look at people who have been treated. It shows that they are both willing and able to use health services. It also sheds light on the infected person's view of their illness. On the other hand, community surveys look at people's rating of their health. Then looking at the relation of clinically defined illness and self reports and find that there is often a discrepancy.

A great deal of the time, mortality statistics take the place of the morbidity statistics because in many developed societies where people typically die from degenerative conditions, the age in which they die sheds more light on their life-time health. This produces many limitations when looking at the pattern of sickness, but sociologists try to look at various data to analyze the distribution better.

Normally, developing societies have lower life expectancies in comparison to developed countries. They have also found correlations between mortality and sex and age. Very young and old people are more susceptible to sickness and death.

On average women typically live longer than men, although women are more likely to have bad health. There is a great deal of data supporting the conclusion that these behaviors affect health more significantly than other factors.

Sociologists agree that alcohol consumption, smoking, diet, and exercise are important issues, but they also see the importance of analyzing the cultural factors that affect these patterns. Sociologists also look at the effects that the productive process has on health and illness. While also looking at things such as industrial pollution , environmental pollution, accidents at work, and stress-related diseases.

Social factors play a significant role in developing health and illness. Studies of epidemiology show that autonomy and control in the workplace are vital factors in the etiology of heart disease. One cause is an effort-reward imbalance. Decreasing career advancement opportunities and major imbalances in control over work have been coupled with various negative health costs. Various studies have shown that pension rights may shed light on mortality differences between retired men and women of different socioeconomic statuses.

These studies show that there are outside factors that influence health and illness. On the opposite end, there are many beliefs that an infected male can be cured of the infection by having sex with a virgin. These beliefs increase the number of people with the virus and also increase the number of rapes against women. Herbal treatment is one of the primary medicines used to treat HIV in Africa.

It is used more than standard treatment because it is more affordable. This lack of research on whether the herbal medicines work and what the medicines consist of is a major flaw in the healing cycle of HIV in Africa. Economically, HIV has a significant negative effect. The labor force in Africa is slowly diminishing, due to HIV-related deaths and illness.

In response, government income declines and so does tax revenue. A major social problem in Africa in regards to HIV is the orphan epidemic. The orphan epidemic in Africa is a regional problem. In most cases, both of the parents are affected with HIV. Due to this, the children are usually raised by their grandmothers and in extreme cases they are raised by themselves. In order to care for the sick parents, the children have to take on more responsibility by working to produce an income. Not only do the children lose their parents but they also lose their childhood as well.

Having to provide care for their parents, the children also miss out on an education which increases the risk of teen pregnancy and people affected with HIV. The most efficient way to diminish the orphan epidemic is prevention: preventing children from acquiring HIV from their mothers at birth, as well as educating them on the disease as they grow older. Also, educating adults about HIV and caring for the infected people adequately will lower the orphan population.

The age range with the highest death rates, due to HIV, are those between the ages of 20 and 49 years. The fact that this age range is when adults acquire most of their income they cannot afford to send their children to school, due to the high medication costs.

It also removes the people who could help aid in responding to the epidemic. Asian countries have wide variations of population, wealth, technology and health care, causing attitudes towards health and illness to differ. Japan , for example, has the third highest life expectancy 82 years old , while Afghanistan has the 11th worst 44 years old.

These problems are influenced by the sociological factors of religion or belief systems, attempts to reconcile traditional medicinal practices with modern professionalism, and the economic status of the inhabitants of Asia. Vietnam is a country with feudal, traditional roots, which, due to invasion, wars, technology and travel is becoming increasingly globalized. Globalization has altered traditional viewpoints and values. Even early globalization has added to this problem — Chinese influence made Vietnam a Confucian society , in which women are of less importance than men.

Men in their superiority have no need to be sexually responsible, and women, generally not well educated, are often unaware of the risk, perpetuating the spread of HIV and AIDS as well as other STIs.

Confucianism has had a strong influence on the belief system in Asia for centuries, particularly in China, Japan, and Korea, and its influence can be seen in the way people chose to seek, or not seek, medical care.

Cultural beliefs shape attitudes towards physical and mental disabilities. China exemplifies this problem. According to Chinese Confucian tradition which is also applicable in other countries where Confucianism has been spread , people should always pursue good health in their lives, with an emphasis on health promotion and disease prevention.

Indigenous healing practices are extremely diverse throughout Asia but often follow certain patterns and are still prevalent today. Many traditional healing practices include shamanism and herbal medicines , and may have been passed down orally in small groups or even institutionalized and professionalized. Now governments must be careful to create health policies that strike a balance between modernity and tradition.

Organizations, like the World Health Organization , try to create policies that respect tradition without trying to replace it with modern science, instead regulating it to ensure safety but keeping it accessible. Mental health issues are gaining an increasing amount of attention in the Asian countries. Indigenous psychology is that which is derived from the laws, theories, principals, and ideas of a culture and unique to each society.

In many Asian countries, childbirth is still treated by traditional means and is thought of with regional attitudes. For example, in Pakistan , decisions concerning pregnancy and antenatal care ANC are usually made by older women, often the pregnant woman's mother-in-law, while the mother and father to be are distanced from the process.

They may or may not receive professional ANC depending on their education, class, and financial situation. Female midwives and healers are still the norm in most places.

Western methods are overtaking the traditional in an attempt to improve maternal health and increase the number of live births. Asian countries, which are mostly developing nations, are aging rapidly even as they are attempting to build their economies.

Models of Health, Illness, and Health Care

In the functionalist model, Parsons argued that illness is a form of deviance that disturbs the social function of a society. Discuss the functionalist perspective on illness in society, specifically the role the sick play in a specific society and how that role affects others. Structural functionalism, or simply functionalism, is a framework for building theory that sees society as a complex system whose parts work together to promote solidarity and stability. This approach looks at society through a macro-level orientation, which is a broad focus on the social structures that shape society as a whole. This approach looks at both social structure and social functions. Herbert Spencer : Herbert Spencer was a prominent functionalist sociologist, who likened the functioning parts of society as organs within a body.


within the dominant biomedical model as well as social model of health and illness. Further aim is whether or not mHealth has the potential in bridging the gaps.


The Palgrave Handbook of Social Theory in Health, Illness and Medicine

E-mail: lbampi unb. E-mail: guilhem unb. E-mail: elioenai unb. Corresponding Author.

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We are currently in the process of updating this chapter and we appreciate your patience whilst this is being completed. Concepts of health, wellbeing and illness, and the aetiology of illness: Section 3. Concepts of health and wellbeing. This is consistent with the biopsychosocial model of health, which considers physiological, psychological and social factors in health and illness, and interactions between these factors. It differs from the traditional medical model, which defines health as the absence of illness or disease and emphasises the role of clinical diagnosis and intervention. The WHO definition links health explicitly with wellbeing, and conceptualises health as a human right requiring physical and social resources to achieve and maintain.

Health psychology is the application of psychological theory and research to health, illness, and healthcare. Health psychology, often referred to as behavioral medicine or medical psychology , is the application of psychological theory to health-related practices. The field of health psychology includes two sub-fields. Behavioral health focuses on prevention of health problems and illnesses, while behavioral medicine focuses on treatment. Health psychology is concerned with the psychology of a range of health-related behaviors, including nutrition, exercise, healthcare utilization, and medical decision-making. National Cancer Institute : Nutrition is often researched by health psychologists. The biopsychosocial model views health and illness behaviors as products of biological characteristics such as genes , behavioral factors such as lifestyle, stress, and health beliefs , and social conditions such as cultural influences, family relationships, and social support.

The sociology of health and illness , alternatively the sociology of health and wellness or simply health sociology , examines the interaction between society and health. The objective of this topic is to see how social life affects morbidity and mortality rate , and vice versa. The sociology of medicine limits its concern to the patient-practitioner relationship and the role of health professionals in society. Health, or lack of health, was once merely attributed to biological or natural conditions. Sociologists have demonstrated that the spread of diseases is heavily influenced by the socioeconomic status of individuals, ethnic traditions or beliefs, and other cultural factors. This topic requires a global approach of analysis because the influence of societal factors varies throughout the world. This will be demonstrated through discussion of the major diseases of each continent.

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4 Response
  1. Coaskigisat

    SOCIAL MODEL OF HEALTH: This model emerged from the social The model looks at the biological factors which affect health, such as age, illness, gender.

  2. Beaucorgafen1964

    Key Concepts in Health Studies provides a much needed guide to the central concepts used across the subject, and offers the reader a comprehensive overview of the core topics, theories and debates.

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