Health as a Social Product

Topics: Sociology, Social class, Illness Pages: 8 (2822 words) Published: November 16, 2012

Sociological understanding of health made it clear that health as different levels of meaning. The interpretation of each meaning changes the perception of individual understanding of health. The sociologist made it clear from many points of view that health is a social product. There is little doubt that the low standard of living and persistence of absolute poverty in the developing world are the key determinants of health. According to the world health organisation (WHO) definition of health, defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not just the absence of disease, illness and injury. As indicated by WHO it means we are ill-health anytime we fall short of complete wellbeing which means that majority of the population are likely to be ill-health at all times.

Health is the capacity for everyday living that enables us to pursue our goals, acquire skills and education, grow and satisfy personal aspirations. It encompasses social, economic, physical, cultural and psychological wellbeing and the ability to adapt to challenges of everyday life. What makes people healthy or unhealthy can be identified as the determinants of health. The social, cultural and economic factors that influence health are often described as the social determinants of health.

According to social scientist, health is defined as the ability to function in a normal social role. This means the impairment; which is the loss or limitation of physical, mental or sensory function on a long term or permanent basis. It can also mean disablement; which is the loss or limitation of opportunities to take part in the normal life of the community on an equal level with others due to physical and social barriers, but this does not make you a less of a human being. We need to make it clear that been disable does not mean you are ill. How people think of themselves and their health condition has important implications on how they respond to the challenge of living with on-going ill health. As much as you are able to adjust to the situation you find yourself determines how healthy you are.

The medic definition of health stated that health is the absence of diseases, illness and injury, if we are to agree with this definition it means 95.5 per cent of the population are ill-health, because many injuries occur every time in human life. Also depending on individual view about the word disease, having a fertility problem can be regarded as a disease; however, this does not make you an ill person.

According to the humanist, health is defined as the ability to adapt positively to the problems of life. People say “you are alright as long as you’ve got your health”. They don’t really mean that you are entirely without aches or pains. They recognise health as a relative, and a person is seen as fortunate if their health is no worse than expected at or is appropriate to their particular age. Ivan Illich says “good health and wellbeing imply functioning effectively in many environments”.

In general the meaning of health and how it is recognised varies both between and within societies. Within any society individuals differ in their thresholds of discomfort and their tolerance of pain, in their sense of what feels healthy and what does not and their ideas about the appropriate responses to particular sickness. Same applies cross culturally; different societies interpret similar symptoms in different ways. For instance in Nigeria being fat is seen as a sign of good living and wealthy because of this, lots of people eat excessively to become clumpy so that people can say they are rich. Meanwhile in United Kingdom, being fat is seen as obesity.

The "medical model" has its strengths in some arenas, particularly those in which there is substantial consensus among humans as to what constitutes a "problem" and such problems reflect situations involving fairly simple cause-effect relationships while the...

References: Taylor, P. Sociology in focus. Bath: the Bath Press. pg.421-454.
Adapted from ‘GPs “would lie to dying patients”, independent, 5.3.90
Adapted from ‘Erving Goffman (1968), research into hospital life’.
Adapted from ‘Ivan Illich (1976), wellbeing’
Adapted from
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