Health and Illness
When we think of health and illness, there is a general conception that it involves health habits such as exercise and eating the right food, as well as institutions such as hospitals and doctors. In Western societies it is commonly accepted that if we are ill it is a result of an infectious disease that can be cured by modern medicine, or is a result of genetics or lifestyle choices. Sociologists propose a different cause. They examine patterns within society, and they seek social rather than biological answers and suggest that the differences in health and illness between different groups within society is influenced by social, economic, cultural and political factors. It is from these observations that sociologists have concluded, "health is unevenly distributed in a systematic way (Introduction to Sociology A: Study Guide, 2000, p 53) ." This observation has been linked to class, gender, race, ethnicity and geographical location, in understanding why certain groups experience significantly different rates of illness.
This has been of significance when interpreting why Australia's Aborigines experience relatively poorer health and are more prone to illness than other Australians.
The sociology of health and illness is concerned with the social origins of and influences on disease, rather than the professional interests of medicine that examine health and illness from its biological development and regards illness as a malfunction of the human body. The social theory of health and illness is critical of the medical model and treats concepts of health and illness as highly problematic and political. It also gives special attention to how patients experience and express their distress when ill, but is critical of the ideal of the so-called 'sick roles'. It argues that modern societies are primarily concerned with illness because of the emphasis that the medical profession...