How Sociologist Analyse and Evaluate the Environmental Influences on Health and Health Care, and the Social Construction of Health and Disease

Published: 2022-12-01
How Sociologist Analyse and Evaluate the Environmental Influences on Health and Health Care, and the Social Construction of Health and Disease
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  History Health and Social Care Human resources Law
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1732 words
15 min read

This paper aims at describing the phrases illness and health. It will go further to address several patterns of health inequalities in society and evaluate the diverse perspectives of disease and health within the health sector and communities. The report will also explain Marmot's status syndrome, why inequalities in health care exist using material and cultural/behavioral explanations, and the positive role of physicians in protecting patients using the functionalist view. Finally, by looking at Scheff and Gove's ideas, the essay will explain the meaning 'health and illness as being socially constructed.' The World Health Organization defines 'health' as an entirely social, mental, and physical wellbeing and not merely being free from infirmity. An illness is a poor health as a result of a disease, sickness, and an ailment of the mind or body. Several aspects come together to affect the wellbeing and health of communities and individuals. Their environment and circumstances determine an individual's health status. Things like relationships with family and friends, education, geographical location, finances, income and employment, diseases, genetics, the environment, and where one lives in, all have remarkable effects on one's health, while common factors like use and access of health care facilities regularly have little impacts.

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2.1 Why Inequalities in Health Exist

Cultural/Behavioral Explanation

The behavioral model of health care inequalities depicts that there are differences in social class health and health promoting or damaging behaviors like contraception, use of immunization, drug consumption, and dietary choices. Research shows that variances in health behavior clarify only a third of social class inequalities in mortality (Browne 2005, p 410). Additionally, assessments which try to modify health behaviors hardly find clear cut advancements in health which could be projected by the behavioral approach.

Materialist Explanation

People get exposed to health risks through poverty. Impoverished individuals have a higher likelihood of living in regions where they are easily exposed to danger like damp housing and air-pollution. There are certain proofs for materialist's explanation. For instance, most research found a correlation between a wet house with childhood respiratory illnesses. The complete effect of standards of living, nevertheless, could only be comprehended over the life span. While the majority of the health professionals agree that materialist explanations have a duty in clarifying health inequalities, most find simple materialist approach as being unsatisfactory (Browne 2005, p. 410).

2.2 Marmot's Status Syndrome (Class and Health Inequalities)

Marmot's study depicts that in all cultures, the people's health and happiness have a close relation to their dwelling place at the status level and that their profession is the key to status. He believes that 'status' does not refer to the causes of ill-health, instead, it is the top cause of illness, and he thus refers to this as the status syndrome (Browne 2005, p. 134). The status syndrome predicts the chances of one succumbing to homicide, infectious diseases, cancers, stroke, heart diseases, and even suicide (Marmot 2011, p.135).

Lower socioeconomic status and de-industrialization play a role in health inequalities in various geographical areas. Around 87% of early deaths occur in middle-income and developing nations. The European Parliament estimates that losses as a result of health inequalities are approximately 1.4% of GDP in the EU; this results from high health care costs and welfare payments (Browne 2005, p. 142). The 'healthy' wards are in most rural regions in Southeast England. In the old northern trade regions, there is still a predominance of manual work due to de-industrialization which has an impact on health (Browne 2005, p. 341). Higher socioeconomic status of the southerners compared to the low socio-economic state of the northerner's also aids in explaining health inequalities. The inverse care law depicts that: The accessibility of good healthcare happens to differ inversely with its necessity in society.

3.1 Why Concepts of Health and Illness are Shaped by Culture

The extent to which patients view patient awareness as being culturally appropriate for them could have a profound impact on how they receive information and how willing they are to apply it (Browne 2005, p. 69). For instance, certain cultures such as the Pakistan and Indians refuse to accept a diagnosis of severe mental retardation or emotional illness since it profoundly limits the likelihood of other family members to get married.

Perception of Health and Illness on Men and Women

Most women go on diets and engage in physical exercises to keep fit and improve their physical wellbeing while men, on the other hand, are rarely aware of their food and have very little intent on refining it. Consequently, life expectancy in women is higher since they get their health status checked occasionally and use more medication to enhance their wellbeing. There are differences between women and men in illnesses and diseases since women are victims of things such as eating disorders, stress, and depression more than men as a result of how society treats them (Browne 2005, p. 413).

Changes in Perception of Mental Illness

In the past, it was perceived that mental diseases resulted from angry gods, witchcraft, and demonic possessions. For instance, in medieval eras, abnormal behaviors were seen as signs of one being possessed by demons, and prayers were said over the individual, and priests practiced exorcism as forms of treatment. Others were executed, imprisoned in asylums, left to be homeless beggars, while some went through trephining (Browne 2005, p. 398). In the modern world, rather than having asylums, there are psychiatric hospitals under local and national hospitals, that focus on short-term care for the mentally ill. Additionally, there are more humane forms of treatments such as psychological therapy and counseling offered by mental health professionals.

3.2 Role of Health Professionals in Protecting Patients - Functionalist View

The functionalist approach stresses that adequate medical care and good health are crucial for a community's capability to function. Parsons believes that diseases weaken people's skills of fulfilling their responsibilities in society, and on the instance, that the majority of the individuals are not in good health, society's stability and functioning suffers (Bourgeault 2010, p. 42). For an individual to be categorized as genuinely sick, functionalists believe that certain prospects have to be achieved. Parsons refers to these expectations as 'sick role.' One of the expectations is that ill individuals need to have their illness confirmed by a health-care professional or physician and to regain their health, they have to obey the doctor's advice (Bourgeault 2010, p. 43).

Doctors have a crucial role in diagnosing the patient's ailment, finding the best form of treatment to administer, and assisting the patient in getting well. The physician's obligation is to: be guided by policies of practice and code of ethics, be non-judgmental and emotionally detached, and be objective. They also have to act in the interest of the patients and not self-interest, as well as use a high degree of expertise and understanding of the illness. Critics of the functionalist perspective and Parsons refer to varying faults visible in this argument. The approach perceives that a person willingly agrees to take the 'sick role.' It as well believes that one might not conform to the expectations of the sick role, might not surrender their social responsibilities, could neglect the free 'sick role' if their sickness faces stigmatization, and could also resist dependency (Bourgeault 2010, p. 44). One of the influential critics on the functionalist view towards the part of the medical profession in protecting patients is the Marxist approach.

Marxists Argument Against the Functionalist View

Marxism is concerned with conflict instead of stability. It holds that economic systems shape societies; hence the class structure produces two different classes, the proletariat, and the bourgeoisie, that is, those who sell their labor, and those owning the means of production. The Marxist approach thus promotes the denial of false consciousness and the claiming of class mindfulness (Browne 2005, p. 17). About health, the national health system is a means which benefits the bourgeoisie by making sure that the physicians are in good working states. The personnel might be aware of their difference but perceive that the system is impartial (false consciousness). A group of Marxists contends that the 'public' health provision is a win for the proletariats. Marxists hold that doctors work as agents of social control, with the aim of keeping the labor force healthy, since healthy personnel is an active workforce (Browne 2005, p. 350). Doctors indirectly work for the capitalists, because they have a duty of getting people back to work very first. Therefore, Marxism focuses more on how society's dominant economic system determines power and inequality and molding the relations in which social institutions are created. Health care systems are social institutions, and in capitalist societies, the interests of the capitalist control it.

3.3 "Health and Illness are Socially Constructed"

Social Construction is a social phenomenon or mechanism generated by society. This model assumes that illnesses and health are not merely real but are products of societal acts and social reasoning. The social construction of health and diseases thus provide a crucial conflicting perspective of the primarily deterministic viewpoint of treatment to 'health and disease.' The concept of the social construction of ailment focuses on the factor of reality as a public structure. This approach of the sickness experience handles issues such as how individuals govern their way of revealing their illness and the life changes that they adapt to manage the disease.

According to Scheff (1974), enduring nonconformity could denote the various conditions held under the phrase 'mental illness' since they cannot be categorized in any other way (p. 445). His model applies labeling theory in discussing mental health. Labeling theory firmly rests on a social constructionist explanation of mental health. Scheff believes that whether one is labeled or not, is based on the gains that other people may get by labeling one as 'mentally ill' (Scheff 1974, p. 445). Such individuals who happen to be a nuisance, or stop others from achieving their wishes, are at a higher risk of being categorized as mentally ill - classifying an individual as being sick mentally results in secondary aberration establishing the undesirable acts and introducing and securing a person into a state of nonconformity.

Rosenhan's (1973) study supports Scheff's idea by claiming that once an individual is labeled that tag paints 'abnormal' most of his other characteristics and behavior (p. 180). Undeniably, labeling of patients is quite influential that most of the pseudopatients' normal behaviors are overwhelmingly misunderstood or entirely overlooked. A mental illness label has an exclusive impact. Once there is an impression that one is schizophrenic, expectations are that the individual will continue being schizophrenic (Rosenhan 1973, p. 180).

Gove (1982) criticizes Scheff's idea by claiming that labeling might assist in explain...

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How Sociologist Analyse and Evaluate the Environmental Influences on Health and Health Care, and the Social Construction of Health and Disease. (2022, Dec 01). Retrieved from

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