Health and Social Influence
“Health is not merely the absence of disease, but a state of complete physical, mental, spiritual and social well-being.” WHO, 1974
In this essay I will be discussing health and health related behaviours and the way they affect our health in every day life. There are many factors I will be discussing how social context, social agents, the health models and the theories of social influence affect our lives. Health is defined as being free from disease and/or illness. There are many ways to be in a healthy state. Medicine is at the forefront of being healthy. It is the main institution that diagnoses, treats and prevents illness and disease, also there are many factors which can aid well-being, including many lifestyle choices and social influences. Chrisman, (1977), believed there were 4 types of explanations that cause illness; Invasion – where something has come from outside and entered the person’s body, such as a ‘germ’. Degeneration – when a person is run-down.
Mechanical – when some part of the body, such as a heart or kidney, malfunctions. Balance – where an individual’s body, life or even relationship with others is disturbed in some way.
Many sociologists believe the social context of people has a greater influence on their health than medicine. The circumstances of people’s lives vary a lot throughout the world. This results in certain people/cultures more likely to contract specific illnesses and/or diseases. For instance in Africa there is low sanitation, especially in the way of getting safe drinking water. The water is often contaminated by various diseases including typhoid fever, cholera, hepatitis A and many parasites which can cause disease or even fatality. The idea of social context is based on our culture, environment and how we interact with it and the people within it. Social factors are very important in the idea of social context. Examples of these are religion, ethnicity, family, economic status, education, locality, and political systems. All these things affect the way we see the world. If a person is a black, male Jehovah’s Witness he will live by very different norms and values than a white, female Catholic. They will both have completely different views on the world, and will interact with it in their own ways. This is a good example of health related behaviours as Jehovah’s Witness’ are anti-blood transfusions. This would mean that if they become ill due to a blood complication or loss of blood they would recover slower, or not at all, due to their belief.
There are many agents of socialization including family, peers, education, community and culture, mass media and employment. Family has a big influence on your socialisation, particularly at the start of your life. This is an example of the social communication theory. People have an attachment to their family. If in my family my parents communicate that it is the norm to smoke, I will most likely turn out to be a smoker due to the fact that it has never been communicated as wrong to me. Peers have a massive effect on the way people behave. Through the social pressure theory many behaviours can be influenced. In school this is prominent. These days in school there is a big problem with skiving. This could be due to peer groups influencing particular students who wouldn’t usually skive, to skive. Education has a lot to do with how we view punctuality and work ethic. This is an example of the social norm theory is as much we adopt behaviours that are presented as the norm. If it is the norm at school to turn up on time for class, the students will follow suit. Mass media has a huge effect on our lives. What we see in the media affect our attitudes and ways of viewing things. E.g. in all the magazines size 0 models are plastered everywhere, this gives way to the nation/world believing that this is the norm and will make us want to be the same. This is an example of media exposure theory, social...
References: Chrisman, N. J. (1977) sociology themes and perspectives. London. HarperCollins Publishers Limited.
Dahlgren, L., Whitehead, A.N. (1991) sociology themes and perspectives. London. HarperCollins Publishers Limited.
Illich, I. (1976) sociology themes and perspectives. London. HarperCollins Publishers Limited.
Illich, I. (2000). Sociology themes and perspectives. London HarperCollins Publishers Limited.
WHO. (1974) sociology themes and perspectives. London. HarperCollins Publishers Limited.
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