This week we’ve looked at the social influences of health on individuals in society. Many characteristics from social class to where you live to the education you have about health and healthy patterns of behavior influences your health outcomes.
Post a picture describing one health condition or outcome you feel college students should have more awareness of. Discuss how this condition or outcome is related to social patterns.
NOTES TO HELP WITH ASSIGNMENT
Health and Medicine
Health is defined as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being. Health or lack or health is shaped by biology, cognition, and social characteristics such a environment, education, and access to resources.
Medicalization is a social process through which a human experience or condition is culturally defined as pathological and treatable as a medical condition. We determine as a society which characteristics are medical in nature and which are not. While some things are easy to see as a health concern, sometimes there is considerable debate over biological and social interpretations of health.
Society and Health
Society shapes people’s health in four ways:
- Cultural diversity (patterns define health): US standards of health may be different from other standards or from individual needs. What we see as healthy and unhealthy in CA is different from the South, Midwest, or the East Coast, etc.
- Cultural change (standards of health change over time): Today, 75% of adults report bathing everyday, in 1959 only 30% of adults reported this. Throughout time there have been warnings about education (high education strained the female brain), and sexuality (the vibrator was invented as a psychological tool for women particularly housewives who suffered from depression). Our perception of disease change with new knowledge about formation and transmission.
- Technology affects people’s health: the leading causes of death in the US in 1900 were all contagious diseases. Today, the lead cause of death are biologically and environmentally related- heart disease and cancer.
- Social inequality: the rich have better physical and mental health than the poor. This is due to a combination of better education/knowledge of health and healthy practices as well as better access to health care/being able to afford health care.
Structural Functionalism and Health
The Sick Role
- The Functionalist school views norms of behavior individuals adopt when sick. From this perspective, illness is seen as a dysfunction that can disrupt the flow of a normal state of being. A sick individual might not be able to perform all of his or her standard responsibilities or might be less reliable and efficient than usual. If sick people are not able to function properly, others also suffer from their lack of production.Parsons developed the concept of the sick role to describe the patterns of behavior that the sick person adopts in order to minimize the disruptive impact of illness. There are three pillars of the sick role:
- The sick person is not personally responsible for being sick
- The sick person is entitled to certain rights and privileges, including withdrawal from normal responsibilities.
- The sick person must work to regain health by consulting a medical expert and agreeing to become a patient.
Symbolic Interactionist Theories of Health
Illness as “Lived Experience”Symbolic Interactionists attempt to reveal the interpretations that are ascribed to illness and how these meanings influence people’s actions and behavior. These scholar seek to understand how people react to illness or how illness shapes one’s everyday life.Corbin and Strauss (1985) studied the regimes of health that the chronically ill develop in order to organize their daily lives. He found there are three types of “work” contained in people’s everyday strategies.
- Illness work: refers to activities involved in managing a condition such as treating pain, doing diagnostic tests, or undergoing physical therapy.
- Everyday work: refers to the management of everyday life- maintaining relationships with others, running the household, pursuing a profession or personal interest.
- Biographical work: activities that the person does as part of building or reconstructing their personal narrative. It is the process of incorporating the illness into one’s life, making sense of it, and developing ways of explaining it to others. This generally helps restore meaning and order to their lives. Biographic work often takes places in the form of the stories we tell one another about illness. Note, some people will be more specific at certain times than other, or will frame their stories in different ways.
Models of Health
The Biomedical Model of HealthThis is the dominant way in which we view health and illness in society. Illness is viewed in physical terms. As such disease is defined in objective and scientific terms and thus healing of the body requires medical treatment. An example is going to the hospital when you are sick.
Alternative Medicine Model of Health
Includes all non-biological or orthodox medical treatments. Essentially everything that is not part of the typical way in which we treat medicine from homeopathy, herbal remedies, and acupuncture to reflexology and chiropractic treatments. Due to the tendency for individuals to combine orthodox and non-orthodox treatments, many scholars consider alternative medicine as complementary medicine rather than alternative. An example is seeing a chiropractor or healer.
- WHO IS HEALTHY Conflict theorists look at how inequalities by race, gender, class, age, etc. contribute to varying differences in health outcomes. One way in which they do this is through social epidemiology.
- Social epidemiology: the study of how health and disease are distributed throughout a society’s population.
- Age and Gender Death is not as common among the young. Moreover, women generally have better health than men. Infant females are less likely than infant males to die immediately before or after birth. As children are socialized, boys are taught to be more aggressive and are more likely to engage in risky behavior than girls, and thus their chance for injury increases. Males versus females have higher rates of accidents, suicide, and violence.The US has an aging population which means that we will have a large number of people 65 or older than has happened in the past. According to the Population Reference Bureau, the number of Americans ages 65 and older is projected to more than double from 46 million today to over 98 million by 2060, and the percent of people age 65-and-older will rise to nearly 24 percent from 15 percent. Researchers find the health of baby boomers is poorer compared to their parents, despite boomers living longer, when measured at the same age. Some concerns include:
- Obesity rates among older adults have been increasing; about 40 percent of 65-to-74-year-olds in 2009-2012 were obese.
- Adults aged 55-64 are taking more drugs than ever before, with a 29% spike in the use of anti-diabetic pills and a 54% increase in cholesterol-lowering drugs.
- More than one-fourth (27 percent) of women ages 65 to 74 lived alone in 2014. This number was 42 percent among women ages 75 to 84, and to 56 percent among women ages 85 and older.
- It is projected that there will be a 75 percent increase in the number of Americans ages 65 and older requiring nursing home care.
- The rate of suicide among the aging population is increasing. Sadly, it has the highest rate among those 85 and older. This optional film explains the epidemic of suicide (Links to an external site.) among the elderly.
- Chronic disease among the elderly has declined in recent years due to increases in health care. Although the cost of providing health care for an older American is three to five times greater than the cost for someone younger than 65. It is speculated that the lower cost rate for the oldest old is due to selectivity- if you are in better health you will live longer- although the extent of which people control their health- do people who live longer have more healthy behaviors- is probably also a factor.