Sociology Of Health And Illness

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Sociology of Health and Illness

Sociology of Health and Illness

It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver. —Mahatma Gandhi

The media regularly inform us of problems within the health-care system: Many Americans have no health insurance; increasing obesity is creating record rates of diabetes; health-care costs are the leading cause of personal bankruptcy; and myriad factors are resulting in a national physician and nursing shortage. Indeed, our health-care system is in crisis, despite state-of-the-art medical technology and an increase in the average human life span. However, the media often fail to present the complete picture of health by overemphasizing high-tech biological and pharmaceutical treatments and often ignoring how behavior contributes to health problems. The medical system and consumers of health care often focus on “sick care” or “resurrection medicine” rather than on wellness and prevention.

Of course, many people think that an ER physician should treat the heart attack of an elderly grandmother. But, does knowledge of this woman's affinity for fried foods, lifelong smoking habit, or development of obesity-related Type II diabetes sway opinions of how much money is spent to save her life or attempt to rehabilitate her back to health? These dilemmas force society to consider who is responsible for the state of this patient's health and who will fund her care. The health-care crisis is complex and there are no easy solutions to it. Ethical issues concerning individual lifestyle behaviors, personal rights, or entitlement to health care frequently collide with health-care accessibility and affordability. The field of health psychology will likely play a role in any solution to current and future health care challenges.

Health psychology is a young field of psychology that integrates the scientific exploration and clinical applications of psychology, medicine, and public health disciplines such as health promotion, epidemiology, health education, and health policy. Western medicine typically focuses on diagnosing and treating the anatomical or physiological causes of disease. Epidemiology is a branch of public health that focuses on the distribution, related risk factors, and control of disease in a population. In addition, public health also includes health promotion, health communication, health education, and environmental health interventions to prevent illness and enhance individual and community health.


The current Western model of health relies heavily on biomedical models and typically separates the mind from the body. Health psychology recognizes the importance of anatomy and physiology in the diagnosis, understanding, and intervention of disease. However, health psychologists focus on psychological and social variables and recognize the reciprocal relationship among biological, psychological, and social influences on health and illness. A health psychologist considers the interaction of biological variables such as genetic predisposition or immune system response; psychological and behavioral variables such as perceptions of stressors, coping strategies, and lifestyle; and social variables such as interpersonal relationships, culture, and environment in theorizing about causes of wellness versus illness and for developing interventions.

Social Cognitive Theory and Related Models

Better keep yourself clean and bright; you are the window through which you must see ...
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