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discuss the importance of work on our health and ill health

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Kirsty Spence 139113972

Foundation Degree in Health and Social Care

Sunderland University

SSC 107: DIMENSIONS OF HEALTH DISCUSS THE IMPORTANCE OF WORK ON OUR HEALTH AND ILL HEALTH. YOUR ANSWER SHOULD INCLUDE PSYCHOSOCIAL THEORY

WORD COUNT: 1371

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 Teesside in a time where skilled labor predominant (chemical and steel manufacture)in the area was in decline indicating that other factors are at play such as place and not solely work when we are considering health.
Freud argued that work is ‘man’s strongest tie to reality’ along with love and is key to metal wellbeing this was later backed up by the works of Jahoda and later Hazan and Shaver 1990.
Johoda’s studies the effects of mass unemployment in an Austrian town and found that long term unemployment can have major effect on our wellbeing and lead to people being resigned as opposed to rebellious. Jahoda identified five factors fundamental to wellbeing: time structure, social contact, collective effort or purpose, social identity or status, and regular activity. Employment / work fulfill all five of these factors.
Hazan and shaver put forward that work provides adults opportunities for exploration and mastery and in turn actual and perceived competence as they accomplish work tasks and gain gratification from doing so. They found secure types enjoy work and don’t allow it to affect health or relationships in stark contrast to avoidant subjects who use work as means of avoiding social gatherings and tend to allow it to affect work.
A 2006 review ‘is work good for your health and wellbeing’ further provides. The review looked at 400 studies into the relationship between work and health. It concluded that not only is work generally good for your health but long periods of unemployment promote ill health. Inactivity and lack of social inclusion promotes Professor Barton also points out that returning to work can also aid recovery. As per Marx’s theory work defines us as individuals it gives us a talking point amongst peers. This is also backed up in the above cited 2010 series and was illustrated in the BBC series ‘Nick and Margaret: We All Pay Your Benefits’ which ran in July 2013.
Work is therefore very influential on our health and ill health but there are clearly other factors that influence health and must be considered. Hazan and shaver highlight there are also other factors that have a major impact on our health such as personality type. Works such as those of Jahoda place to great an emphasis on social factors shaping behavior and doesn’t take into account other factors such as
Place or gender. Jahoda’s study was of male participants so we therefore cannot generalise to other sectors of society such as young women. Media influence cannot be ignored as an influence on our Health. Baudrillard (2002) highlights TV and being the predominant global media medium. We are constantly inundated with adverts for healthy lifestyles eg ‘change 4 life’ and issues addressed in soaps etc. Programs such as ‘Nick and Margaret: We All Pay Your Benefits’ also highlight changes that are needed to be made to current policy and areas where support is needed.

Bibliography
(n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/helping-people-to-find-and-stay-in-work https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/181062/health-at-work-presentation.pdf. (2011, November ). Retrieved November 5, 2013, from www.gov.uk: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/181062/health-at-work-presentation.pdf
BBC. (2013, November 13). Economy Tracker:Unemplyment . Retrieved November 18, 2013, from BBC : http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10604117
Department of Work and Pensions . (2013, November 13). BEN01: Key out of work benefits. Date of Publication:13 November 2013. Date of Next Publication:19 February 2014. (Excel sheet 61Kb). Retrieved November 2013, 2013, from www.ons.gov.uk: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/publications/re-reference-tables.html?edition=tcm%3A77-283783#tab-Claimant-Count---Benefits-tables
Field, S. T. (2007). Sociology of Health and Health Care (Forth Edition). Oxford: Blackwell Publishing .
Hazan, C., & Shaver, P. R. (1990). Love and Work An Attachment-Theoretical Perspective. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology August 1990 Vol. 59, No. 2, 270-280. http://www.psy.cmu.edu/~rakison/attachment2.htm. http://www.instituteofhealthequity.org/. (n.d.). Retrieved November 26, 2013, from http://www.instituteofhealthequity.org/projects/workplace
Oxford Dictionary . (n.d.). http://www.oxforddictionaries.com. Retrieved November 18th, 2013, from Oxford Dictionary : http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/work
Petrie, K. C. (2008). Changing Illness Perceptions after Myocardial Infarction. In J. Ogden, Essential Readings in Health Psychology (pp. 435 - 445). Maidenhead: Open University Press.
Phillips, M. P. (1998). The Psychology of Health An Introduction. Hove : Routledge .
Shildrick, T. M. (2010). The Role of the low-pay, no-pay cycle in recurrent poverty. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
Taylor, S. E. (2012). Health Psychology (Eighth Edition). New York: McGraw-Hill.
The Open University . (2013, April 14). Thinking about health: beliefs, models, practices . Thinking about health: beliefs, models, practices . Itunes U .
UCL Insitute of health equity. (2013). Employment arrangements, work conditions and health inequalities. London : UCL Insituite of health equity.

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