Sociology Social Influences on Health Essay

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In terms of the plainness of gendered inequalities in the health and longevity of women, compared with men, the majority world demands our notice. The world-wide toll in terms of women's raised levels of mortality and morbidity corroborates that limited or negligible access to political power, land-ownership, education, sexual self-determination and earning ability has detrimental bodily effects (Bradby, 2009).

While sociologists have long studied the aspect of illness, it has only been recently that they have turned their attention to the development of sociology of health. Sociologists' interest in health emerged in part in reaction to the biomedical mode, which focused primarily on disease. A more holistic approach to health and healing, sociologists argued, must also encompass the idea of positive health and well-being. The concept of health itself needs to be explored, and such exploration must take lay perspectives into account. A holistic, or socio-environmental, model of health also emphasized the need to prevent disease, and as such requires an understanding of how people maintain health (Nettleton, 2006).

The ways in which we comprehend the relation between gender and health have connotations for strategies of change and for policy making, and they provide a channel for future research, data collection and health observation by pointing to gaps in existing data. Being born a boy or a girl has a strong influence on the way that an infant's life will play out. Compared with men, women are less likely to be employed full time, more likely to be familiar to caring roles, and more likely to have their working life broken up by pregnancy and caring responsibilities. Women usually work in lower-paid jobs, and they have less control in those jobs. Research also shows that women's outlooks are more likely to be diminished, that women are less likely to occupy top positions in society, and women are more likely to be seen as irrational, emotional and inappropriate for responsible situations. Even though women have entered the labor force in greater numbers, they still assume most of the responsibility for household chores. Women's economic reliance on men is indicated by the dramatic change in their lives after divorce or separation. It is not shocking that women also have lower self-esteem and are more likely to be worried about body image (Walters, 2004).

It has long been documented that the conditions in which people work and live have an affect their health. This has led to the growth of public health, and in the nineteenth century these ideas challenged a developing biomedicine. For over a century there have been strong records of the links between mortality and economic development, income and living standards. Public health schemes led to significant improvements in infant mortality and life expectancy before biomedicine had an impact on the health of people. In more recent times the same links have been shown with respect to morbidity. Some researchers have provided a lot of documentation on the health effects of poverty, the social organization of work, social exclusion, minority status, unemployment and job insecurity, social support and social cohesion, transport, food and tobacco. Some of the most recent research has highlighted the importance of the degree of income inequality rather than levels of income. Even with the stress on the social aspects of health, there has been very little research done on the role of gender in the literature. It has been illustrated the ways in which gender has often been neglected in studies and shows how this has been to the detriment of both women and men. If we were to incorporate gender in analyses, we would also have a better understanding of socio-economic variations in health. The socio-economic pitch in various measures of health is less marked for women with the exclusion of coronary heart disease and body shape and, rather than being an artifact, this may signify gender differences in exposure or susceptibility. A recent study of British data is well-known because it focused on both gender and ethnicity in relation to socio-economic status along with health. It exposes considerable variations in health status between men and women within majority and minority ethnic groups (Walters, 2004).

The literature on the social determinants of health has been important in bringing attention to the social causes of ill health. In looking at the suggestions of this model, it has been uncertain whether it is important to focus upstream on what is causing illness in the first place, rather than simply just treating the sick. This focus opens up the prospect of more meaningful observation of the social factors that add to poor health among women and among men, so that upstream interventions can be better watched and targeted (Walters, 2004).

It has been shown that illness is related to both social and biological conditions. The influence of social conditions appears to be greater than those of the biological conditions. The social conditions not only have an effect of their own but also make the effects of the biological conditions worse. The social environments in which people live often effect the lives that they live. These environments can make any biological conditions that exist in a person's life even more influential on their outcomes. Something as simple as whether a person is born male or female has been shown to have a great effect on the situations that people end up in and how these influence their lives on a daily basis.


Albrecht, Gary L., Fitzpatrick, Ray and Scrimshaw, Susan. 2003. "Handbook of Social Studies

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Bradby, Hannah. 2009. "Virtual Special Issue on feminism and the sociology of gender, health and illness." Sociology of Health and Wellness. Available at:

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Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. 40 (12), pp. 1012-8.

Gee, GC and Payne-Sturges, DC. 2004. "Environmental health disparities: a framework integrating psychosocial and environmental concepts." Environmental Health

Perspectives. 112 (17), pp. 1645-53.

Link, Bruce G. And Phelan, Jo. 1995. "Social Conditions as Fundamental Causes of Disease."

Journal of Health and Social Behavior. Extra Issue: 80-94.

Nettleton, Sarah. 2006. "The Sociology of Health and Wellness." Polity: New York.

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