Nursing Sociology : How Class Affects Health

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  • Topic: Social class, Social status, Sociology
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  • Published : December 30, 2010
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Title: How Socio Economic Class Affects Health.
Module : SHN 123
Word Count: 2118
Student Number : 558601

Inequalities in health between social groups have long been a dominant feature of British Society. Evidence suggests that people in the lower social scale suffer from ill health more than the middle and upper classes. This essay aims to address the reasons for this trend by primarily looking at evidence found in the Black Report, Acheson Report and the Marmot Review and by evaluating the explanations given to support the evidence. The concept of social class is wide ranging – people can move between classes or have character/ occupational traits that cross more than one class. (Giddens, 2001: p282) described Social Class as ‘A large scale grouping of people who share common resources which strongly influence the type of lifestyle they are able to lead.’ Government statisticians have measured Social Class using the ‘Registrar General’s Social Class’ (RGSC) scale. First used in Britain in 1911, the census divided people into six social classes based on the occupation of the head of household; Men were allocated on basis of their occupation, Married/cohabiting women on basis of their partner’s occupation, Children on basis of their father’s occupation and Single women on basis of their own occupation. Following the 2001 census the scale used to measure class changed to the ‘National Statistics Socioeconomic Classification (NS-SEC)’. The change of scale reflected the changing nature of occupations, the growth of middle class professions, the levels of social esteem that these jobs attracted and it ranked the occupations according to the level of responsibility that the job entailed.

The Black Report published in 1980 was a report commissioned by the Labour Government. It used the Registrar General scale as follows; I) Professional
II) Managerial/Technical
III (NM) Skilled (non-manual)
III(M) Skilled (manual)
IV) Partly Skilled
V) Unskilled
VI) Other
To show the health inequalities of people in Social Class V compared to those in Social Class I. It demonstrated that although the health of the nation had improved since the introduction of the Welfare state, there were still large divides between the social classes, with the people in social class V suffering more from poor health. It is evident from the life expectancy rates that people in Social Class V live shorter lives than that of people higher social classes. The Black Report revealed that class differences are found at birth, childhood, adolescence and in adult life. Average life expectancy is a useful summary of the impact of disadvantages and advantages on a person’s life due to their class. In 1980 a child born to parents in social classes I – II will live on average five years longer than a child born into social classes IV – V. The risk of death during birth and the first month of life in class V was double the risk in class I. In 1977 Babies born into class III(M) had one and a half times more risk of mortality than babies born from parents in social class I and for every one male infant death in class I there were almost two deaths in class III(M) and four deaths in class V (Table 2). There were more cases of children dying with diseases of the respiratory system and infective parasitic diseases in the lower social classes. See Graph 3 . Adult males and females in class V had one and a half to two times the risk of death than those of the same age group in social class I. From the sample range of 15-64 years from when the Black report was compiled, people in the earlier ages had the greatest mortality rate within the different classes as Table 4 indicates. The premature deaths in Britain was systematically linked to socio-economic class, it was a trend that was not new or unusual when the report was commissioned and is still a factor in today’s society. The Independent Inquiry into Inequalities in Health Report (also known as the...
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