discuss the importance of work on our health and ill health

Topics: Sociology, Illness, Health Pages: 6 (1429 words) Published: May 24, 2015

Kirsty Spence
Foundation Degree in Health and Social Care
Sunderland University

Health is something that we all take for granted and being healthy is something we all strive to achieve but what is health? It is extremely difficult to define health. Definitions of health can be described as being negative, positive, functional and experiential. Defining what health is can vary from person to person as illustrated in the ITunes U course ‘thinking about health: beliefs, models, practices, which includes audio examples from a variety of people e.g. homeless people and doctors giving their with varying interpretations of what health means to them. Mass media is instrumental in helping us form ideas on what health is and what affects it. There is a wealth of information available a simple google search of ‘what is health’ brings up 5,710,000,000 results. Perhaps the most commonly cited definition of health is that of the World Health Organisation (1946) who state health is ‘a state of complete physical, mental and social well – being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’. This positive view of health is not without criticism, most critics argue that is too idealistic and unachievable but forms the basis of most other definitions of health. How does work impact on our health / ill health?

First need to establish what is work. The oxford dictionary defines work as ‘activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a result….a means of earning income… place where one is employed, the period of time one spends in paid employment’. This could therefore cover activities such as academical work, paid employment voluntary work. Classical sociologists such as Karl Marx would argue work or employment is extremely important as is forms the fundamental basis of economy and therefore society, owing to the fact that the economy influences the whole of society. In addition work defines us as individuals, our social class for example is defined by the level of income we achieve and the nature of the work we are tasked with. Emile Durkheim took this one step further and argued work is essential for social integration and therefore essential to help meet our social needs, arguing division of labor unifies society and helps shape morality. We can therefore derive that work is important to keep the economy running and aiding people meet social needs but how does it impact upon our health? The type of work undertaken is essential to an individual’s welfare. It is important that work is intrinsically rewarding. Low level workers tend to be tasked with chores they must carry out with no opportunity for using initiative and capitalist system of working does little to promote this notion. Taylor 2003 highlighted cases in favor of Marx’s notion whereby a correlation can be found between psychosocial factors within the workplace and workers physiological responses. In particular Thorell found that the higher the level of decision latitude a worker has over their work the better their health tended to be. Illness Navarro 1979 argued is therefore is ‘a product of inequality in society as well as a biological condition’. Although workplace dynamics have changed since the times of Marx’s writings his theories can still be relevant. A 2010 study ‘The role of the low-pay, no pay cycle in recurrent poverty’ concluded that while necessity, desire and lack of better opportunity led people to take low level work low paid ill health often limited participation in work or was a result of the job they were undertaking with depression being widespread amongst interviewees. Whilst this a modern example of how Marx’s theory can still hold relevant. We must also take into account that this study is restricted to...

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