Medicine – the social institution that involves a society’s organized ways of dealing with sickness and
- Back in 1941, international “health experts” identified three components of health: physical, mental,
and social. As symbolic interactionists stress, health is not an objective matter but, rather, a social
construction that varies from culture to culture.
- The concern of sociologists is not to define “true” health or “true” illness; rather, it is to analyze the
effects that people’s ideas of health and illness have on their lives, and even the ways in which people
determine that they are sick.
• Social Epidemiology – the study of disease and disability patterns in a population
• One way to see how the physical health of Americans has changed is to compare the leading causes of
death in two time periods. Many of the leading causes of death in 1900 (e.g., Tuberculosis and Diarrhea)
are no longer leading causes of death today. Similarly, some leading causes of death today (e.g., Murder
and Suicide) were not leading causes of death in 1900. These changes indicate that health is not only a
biological event; it is also social, following the contours of social change.
Social Status and Health
• Infant mortality rates are twice as high for disadvantaged groups
- The poorest in America can die from diseases that strike children in countries like the Sudan and
• African Americans are three t