SOC – Chap 19 Notes: Health and Medicine
Health and Inequality
Life expectancy: the average age at death of the members of the population
o An increase in life expectance results in an increase in degenerative conditions
such as heart disease and cancer.
Sociologists measure the health of a population by looking at the rates of illness and
Maximum average human life span: an estimate of the average age of death for an entire
population under ideal conditions
There are 3 Social Causes of illness and death:
o Human-environmental factors: divisions such as social class, occupation, and
nationality often correspond to sharp differences in the environments in which
people live and work.
Environmental racism: the tendency for hazardous waste sites and
polluting industries to be located near First Nations communities or areas
populated by the poor, politically marginalized, or visible minorities
o Lifestyle factors: smoking, excessive use of alcohol of drugs, poor diet, lack of
exercise, and social isolation are some of the chief lifestyle factors associated with
bad health and premature death
o Factors related to the public health and health care systems: the absence of a
public health system and a proper health care system is associated with high rates
of disease and low life expectancy.
Public Health System: comprises government-run programs that ensure
access to clean drinking water, basic sewage and sanitation services, and
inoculation against infectious diseases.
Health Care System: comprises a nation’s clinics, hospitals, and other
facilities for ensuring health and treating illness.
In the case of HIV/AIDS, spending on research and treatment is concentrated
overwhelmingly in the rich countries of North America and Western Europe
On average, people with low income die at a younger age than do people with high
income. Health deteriorates as we move down the social hierarchy for several reasons:
o High stress and inability to cope with stress are more prevalent in poorer people.
Lower class families must endure more financial/legal mishaps, less days off,
more hours of work, greater crowding, poorer living conditions, and more
noxious/dangerous/unpleasant working conditions
o Differences in the earliest stages of development have life-long consequences.
This includes poor prenatal conditions that are greater in poor families
o Lack of knowledge. Less exposure to education or educated advisors who can
offer guidance on maintaining a healthy lifestyle
o Unequal access to health resources. Poorer people live in areas with inferior
o Environmental exposure. Poor people are more likely exposed to environmental
risks that have a negative impact on their health Racially marginalized groups are subject to negative health outcomes because of the
cumulative effects of social exclusion based on race
There are also gender inequalities in health care:
o Public health systems are slower to address and more likely to neglect women’s
health issues than men’s health issues
o Bias exists in medical research and treatment
o Women have low status in many developing countries and many health problems
are due to pregnancy
o Women face a higher risk of poverty after divorce or widowhood