Explain How Sociological and Lay Ideas About Illness Differ from Those of Biomedicine.

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Explain how sociological and lay ideas about illness differ from those of biomedicine. Health is a giant wheel subject with several aspects and it is nearly impossible to explain wellness and health without considering the aspects of illness. And just as health is multi-faceted, illness, too, is studied in different perspectives. And that includes sociological, lay and biomedical concepts. Sociological Perspectives of Illness:

In sociological terms, a functioning society is based on the well-being and health of the people and the control of illness. This is where the finding of sociologist Talcott Parsons comes relevant. He introduced the term “the sick role”, which dealt with the social behaviour of, and the behavior toward those whom society defines as ill. Parsons stated that, the sick person is: • Not held responsible for being sick.

• Not responsible for normal duties.
• Not supposed to like the role.
• Supposed to seek help to get out of the role.
Many suppose that illness is determined solely by science, but there is this sociological view, as per the definition of the sick role (Parsons, n.d.), in which the society considers those four points as the criteria for an individual to assume the sick role but the society rules out those who like sickness or does not seek treatment as ineligible for the role (Sociological Perspective on Health, cliffnotes.com). This suggests that society plays a big part in determining sickness, too. However, drastic changes have taken place in the sociological perspectives of illness and the ‘sick role’. Chemical dependency like addiction to alcohol and drugs were considered as character weakness in the past, but the scenario has changed with the advent of drug-rehab programmes, centers and the likes, which classify the addictions as diseases, though not quite as literally, but however, the individuals are allowed to assume the sick role as long as they seek treatment. Another instance is in the understanding of a disease condition as legitimate or otherwise. The society has had misconceptions regarding many diseases which later proved to be legitimate scientifically. Such a scenario was prevalent in the case of AIDS, which the society shunned as a result of immoral conduct and violation of social values, rather than a disease condition. But as the society has become more aware of it as a disease and the sufferers as legitimately ill, the scenario has changed for the better. Again, this emphasizes on the huge role of the society in the issues of illness. Yet another field that has experienced the difference that came about in the sociological view of illness is the mental illnesses, which displays a vast area of skepticism and implausible realities with regard to the psychiatric disorders. While in the past the mentally ill were not regarded as “diseased” persons, and locked away in insane asylums, the scene has changed and the understanding of mental illness has wonderfully improved, along with the conditions, after the introduction of community level methods to address the problems. The sociological presentation of the situation has been explained in terms of ‘objectification’ and ‘anchoring’ (Joffe, 1997). Objectification transforms the abstract links to the past ideas that anchoring set up, into concrete mental content . And this abstract knowledge is made plausible by the way of the concrete content, through everyday discourse (Wagner et al. 1995). As Hélène Joffe puts it in her work The relationship between representational and materialist perspectives : AIDS and 'the other', social representational theory is a powerful tool that explains the relationship between scientific and lay ideas of mass illness. While the theory defines with precision how knowledge goes around in the society, the term ‘social representation’ denotes two ideas – one, the content of the people’s ideas about social phenomena that decides their understanding of the...
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