Sociology 3HH3: Sociology of Health Nov. 1 2012
Lecture 8: Labelling and Medicalization
- Email her over weekend
- Course code in subject
- Name, student number
- Mac email
- For exam mark
- ***non-internet source – joanne clark’s book on medicalization***
- Health is not random
o Micro level: the social groups that you interact with shape you perctipns and your
- Our social perceptions of health shift with time and space (often with the person we are
o Idea of what is “normal” or what is “deviant” shifts with your context
E.g. How diff cults seek help (last week’s lect)
Act of medical help seeking
- Social construction
o Effects both the individual and the practioner
o Personal defs and reactions are often shaped by very subjective critera
o Can be confusing bc shaped by more than one struct of soc
The label can shift when moving from one group to another
- Social legitimization (authority/power) – to label
o All our insititutions are given a degree of control to label
o Issue is when these areas and control and definition overlap
In that family, your job is to raise your kids
o Does education have a say in that? Does religion?
The degree of the intrusion depends on our perception of the intruder
E.g. if religious, religious struct will have more of an effect
Depends on who you give power to
- Societed definition
o Expands and contracts depending upon who has power over definition
Can create dilemmas of definition
Is alcholohism a crime, a sin, a disease?
Defining becomes part of power/authority Who do we give the most power to in our soc to label our definitions?
Who we allow to shape our beleifs, our values
Who do we turn to for help and treatment
Subjective, intutitive level to our construction of sickness and health
Authroity and Power of Med
- Shifting in course content to a more critical view of medicine
o Have to remember: We give power to the med institution
Need med institution to refocus upstream
Who do we have to change?
o Have to take power away from biomed to do this
Not happening because although we understand the
necc of the shift, we don’t want to let go of that
Only has as much authority as soc allows
So to make the shift we have to reduce the power of med and reduce
the legitimacy of that institution as well
o Shift causes a lot of ripple effects
- How medicine attains and maintains the control
o Underlines the role of soc – part that we play in giving that institution such a large
amount of control/authority
o Begin by looking at research that analyizes personal def of health
Based on socially believed cults and norms
“Subjective Distribution of Illness”
o Personal defs indicate that they are based on very subjective
Socially ruled beliefs
o Relates to personal belief structure, culture etc.
o Also effected by your own physician’s subjective distribution of
o Subjective – people differ on all these:
Who do I think counts as sick?
Which symptoms do I think I should pay attn. to? Which
ones are severe?
Which people seek help? Which don’t?
What do I want for help? Biomed, comfy etc.
o How does the shared definition of illness come to be accepted?
Hard to figure out in our soc because the receving or seeking of medical health
care is primarily a voluntary action
You call the doctor, he doesn’t call you
Because our soc has such a strong belief in biomed – we give them authority to
legitimize sickness and create the sick role If serious – seek help with biomed first
If just to keep healthy rather than to cure – seek alternatives more
- Labelling – Power that we give medicine as a group
o Often they will give us defs and explanations that fit into cult accepted categories
o Bc they are just people – they interpret their science thru their own cultural lens
Culturally significant labels
Power to interpret standards thru their cult view (who they are)
Interpret and pose social standards on their patients
o E.g. Family planning – in many cases they used to/tried to make
these decisions for you
When you are too old for kids
Decide which way you should have kids (natural etc.)
When it is too late for an abortion/when you are
allowed to have an abortion
Who has reproductive rights (access to abortion, to
information about birth control etc.)
E.g. Reproductive technology
View of medicine, not the view of women
What is appropriate sexual activity
i.e. sex ed for teens
o Should they be able to decide that for
o Taking social values and putting them
on your medical life
o Supposed to be objective individuals, but are as good as a
product of the culture
Differ from cult to cult
E.g. advice from a doc in secular t.o. on birth
control vs. advice from a doc in catholic Ireland
Supposed to be giving us scientific info only, but
are structured by culture
- Does this labelling relate to bio science?
o Or is it social control?
They can diagnose the problem, but should they be allowed to come up with a
solution that is outside of the realm of biomed?
They can label the disease, but can they label the solution?
- Labelling o Relies on a sociated definition
Definition expands and contracts dependeing upon who has power over def
On who gets to decide what it means
o Based on social values
o Carries a judgement of NORMAL
That normalcy often measured by a standardized measurement
E.g. bell curve – the average
o Normal is line straight down the centre
o If you only label people who are normal, what do you miss?
o All the other area!
Often how many people fall outside of the average is ignored
o E.g. Robin Williams
His level of acticity is normal for him, but not normal for
When he was ins chool – everyone else was quiet and
he was crazy
They were “normal”, he was not, according to
But according to him, he was normal
Who gets to decide normal?
o What is normal?
Can only perceive normal from what you are
When we allow someone to label – they get to decide normal
o Would be great if we all shared a def of normal but we don’t
Comes from who we associate with, who we know
Who’s view is most credible to you?
- Label has power
o Once we accept and believe in the def and the authority of the person giving the label it
When someone labels your disease, you can feel relief – now that we
know what it is, we can handle it
Can feel dread
o Have to deal with the mental and physically dehabilitating
states that the label imposes
o Effects socially how people will act with you and how you will
act with them
Either way, the label can legitimizes your state and lets you fulfill the
o Sick role’s 4 social expectations Exempt from normal social role activity
Too sick to clean etc.
Exempt from responsibility of being ill
Not my fault I got the flu
Sick must take care to get healthy
Obliged to want to get better since the sick role
is not ideal
o To seek competent health (doctor)
Sick must be cared for by others
Pick up the slack
o Label of sick role draws attn. to how sickness is socially
When that label is imposed, all of us have rules about
what we should be doing
o Concept Shows how puts pressure on the sick
We Judge people who don’t follow doc’s orders to get
Don’t give any leeway to those who are not legit sick
Negative reaction from soc to your illness
o E.g. AIDS
Don’t want disease label made