November 14th 2013
Sociology of Health
Medicalization: view (something) in medical terms; treat as a medical problem,
What is Normal?
● Illich - text page 354 “In every society → his disability, and even his death”
● Why would someone want their social problem to become a health problem
○ benefits, insurance coverage
Why is Health a concern for sociologists? What does sociology contribute to the study of
health and illness?
● Health outcomes are patterned (Class affects what kind of treatment you can get)
Medical sociology is based on the view that medical practises and beliefs are intensely social.
● Policy Sociology: generates data to help develop policies for healthcare
● Critical Sociology: keep system in check (ex. when school raise fees, practices of
companies and for profit hospitals)
The transformation of “health” (in high income nations)
● How we define “health” is intimately connected to our definition of our human nature
○ Ex. average life span, vaccinations are often expected
● We’ve gone from a concern with disease to a concern with lifestyle choices
○ Ex. Obesity
○ In High income nations, the thing that used to kill us off have been fixed
● Expanding definition of “disease” means many new problems are now medicalized,
defining more and more things as medical problems
○ Can get meds for being too shy
● Question: Health or Enhancement?
○ Health/sick binary is breaking down
○ Now increasingly about “optimization”, rather than focused on disease (Ex.
sleeping, shyness, attention, intelligence, sexual performance, memory)
○ New health technologies, potentially change our understanding of “human” and
● New pharmaceutical interventions to deal with social/cultural/economic rooted
● Medicalization of certain problems = a form of social control, defines what is normal
and what is deviant.
New Health Agenda in High Income Countries: Lifestyle choices
● Eating right
● Limit smoking, drinking, drug use
● get enough sleep ● limit stress
● Health is a form of social control
● Health is individualized
● Health problems are defined by their complexity
● Example: Is Obesity a disea