Sociol economic factors that can affect health and illness

Topics: Health care, Social class, Illness Pages: 6 (1640 words) Published: February 26, 2005
In society today there are many social-economic factors that may influence an individual's health and illness. Thinking about health, it is acceptable in today's society that health is not a fixed thing. More aches and pains come as people get older and this is accepted as a normal part of ageing, but these aches and pains for a younger person are not accepted as normal.

"It has been argued by many sociologists that what has been considered to be normal in one society or in one period of history may be considered abnormal or healthy in another" (Moore 1996 p334).

The World Health Organisation defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. This definition has not been amended since 1948.

This piece of work will be looking at factors that may have an effect on a person's health and illness.

Social class is the socio-economic classification based on the occupation of the householder. The UK office of population census and surveys has five categories. Category one: professional, two: intermediate, three: skilled, four: semi-skilled and five: unskilled (Brooker 1996).

Research has shown that depending on social class there are considerable differences in mortality. Out of sixty-six major causes of death in men, sixty-two are more common in social class four and five than any other class. Sixty- four out of seventy major causes are more common in women who are married to social class four or five men. Research has also shown that if a person is born into poverty then his or her chances of suffering ill health and a shortened life span are greater than if he or she was born into prosperity. A baby born into a family where the father is unskilled is more at risk than that of a baby born into a professional family, of being stillborn or dying in infancy (Baggot 1998). Working class children are more vulnerable to illness and fatal injury. Parents from working class families are less likely to take them to a doctor than parents from middle class families. This may not necessarily be because they are unconcerned about the illness but because they may see the quality of care to be poor and costly. Health services in working class areas may be less accessible and of poorer quality. Middle class patients are more able to demand the care they need and therefore obtain better care from general practitioner in areas that are better served (Abercrombie et al 1995).

The poverty line is the dividing point between those who are poor and those who are not. There are two identified forms of poverty. The first being absolute poverty or subsistence level poverty. This is when an income falls below a level so that a person does not have the means to enable them to secure the basic necessities for living, in terms of food, water, shelter and clothing. The second definition of poverty is relative poverty. This is the standard that is generally expected by the society in which a person lives. It is defined in terms of a reasonable standard of living. Poverty is usually a problem of the working class, as other classes usually have pension schemes, savings and sick pay schemes for protection when ill-health strikes or old age arrives (Browne 1992).

Records show that the unemployment rate has fallen to 4.9%. This is the joint lowest since records began in 1984. The claimant count fell in December 2003, which makes it the lowest claimant count since September 1975. Full-time workers have increased by 31,000 and part-time workers have risen by 10,000. Job vacancies in the past year have risen by 9,500. These statistics show there are less people on benefits than there was in 1975 (Office for National Statistics). Many of the unemployed live in poverty and survive on state benefits. The longer the unemployment lasts the deeper the poverty becomes. There are many complaints normally associated with unemployment. Things such as boredom, sickness,...

References: ABERCROMBIE, Nicholas, WARDE Alan, (1995). Contemporary British Society. 2nd ed. Oxford: Blackwell.
BAGGOT, Rob, (1998). Health and Health Care in Britain. 2nd ed. London: Macmillan.
BROOKER, Christine, ed. (1996) Mosby Nurse 's Pocket Dictionary. 31st ed. London: Mosby.
BROWNE, Ken, (1992). An Introduction to Sociology. Oxford: Blackwell.
GRAHAM, Hilary, (2000). Understanding Health Inequalities. Buckingham: Open University.
MACINTYRE, Sally, et al., (2000). Housing Tenure and Health Inequalities: 'a three dimensional perspective on people, homes and neighbourhoods '. In: GRAHAM, Hilary. ed, 2000. Understanding Health Inequalities. Buckingham: Open University.
MOORE, Stephen, (1996). Sociology Alive. 2nd ed. Cheltenham: Stanley Thornes.
Office for National Statistics. 'National Statistics Online. ' Unemployment Rate at 4.9%: joint lowest since records began. _print.asp?ID=12. (4th February 2004).
SMITH, George Davey, et al., (1997). 'Lifetime socio-economic position and mortality prospective observational study '. : British Medical Journal. 314 (22nd feb), p 537.
WESTALL, Jessica, (1997). 'Poor Education Linked with Teen Pregnancies '. British Medical Journal. 314 (22nd feb), p537.
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