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Sociology ­ Health

Definitions of health
There are two main perspectives on health:
The biomedical model (favoured by scientists) says that health and illness are
caused by factors within the body.
The social model (favoured by sociologists) says that health and illness are caused
by factors outside the body.


Page 2

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Sociology ­ Health

not universal. But people living in that society will usually accept it as natural and "common
The medical elite haven't always dominated the definition and treatment of illness and
disease ­ it's a modern phenomenon. For example, mental illness was often thought to be
caused by…

Page 3

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Sociology ­ Health

Inequalities in health
1. The working class have a higher infant mortality rate than the national
average. The wealthiest social groups have the lowest infant mortality rate
than the national average.
2. Working class people are statistically more likely to suffer from serious
medical conditions such as…

Page 4

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Sociology ­ Health

Most sociologists agree that economic deprivation is probably the major factor causing
health inequalities, even if they don't agree exactly why.
A major government survey confirmed that the poorer you are, the less healthy that you are
likely to be. It is also found that those with…

Page 5

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Sociology ­ Health

Access to Health Care
The NHS was set up in 1948. It aimed to provide free and equal health care for everyone in
the country. Unfortunately, although the NHS was generally a success, it doesn't give 100%
equal health care to all.
The NHS money is shared…

Page 6

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Sociology ­ Health

Competition between health care providers means that two hospitals very close
together might offer almost exactly the same services. This can also be seen as a
waste of money.
In 2003, New Labour introduced Foundation Trusts to the NHS. Hospitals run by the
Foundation Trusts are often…

Page 7

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Sociology ­ Health

Mental Illness
Sociologists and psychiatrists cannot agree whether mental disorders have physical causes
of social causes.
Sociologists have tended to favour the view that there is a social basis for mental illness.
Given the social inequality in who has good or bad mental health, maybe the sociologists…

Page 8

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Sociology ­ Health

Joan Busfield (2001) thinks that women might be diagnosed with more than their fair share of
mental illnesses because of sexism in the maledominated medical elite. She thinks that
doctors label and interpret behaviour differently depending on whether it's a man or a woman
doing it.…

Page 9

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Sociology ­ Health

The role of medicine and health care
McKeown (1976) claims that medical intervention by the biomedical elite has not had much
impact on improvements in health over the last 200 years. He thinks that the big health
improvements have been mainly down to social factors ­…

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Sociology ­ Health

people's problems are seen as suitable for medical intervention. This is called
medicalization of social life.
3) Cultural iatrogenesis ­ the destruction of traditional ways of dealing with and making
sense of death, pain and sickness.

According to functionalists like Talcott Parsons (1951), doctors have an important…


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