Lecture 8 Notes: Being healthy
Health: What does it actually mean?
We think of someone who is healthy as an absence of disease. Somebody who is
not ill isn’t necessarily healthy. Someone who doesn’t have an illness can still live
in a condition that isn’t healthy.
Why do sociologists study health?
Study the role of sick people and their treatment and the role of people in
hospitals and how they do their jobs.
Why is that certain types of groups are prone to certain types of groups? Why do
they spread so quickly? Sociologists look at patterns that show differences in
health outcomes, experiences and treatments Why is it now that there are so
many things now that are recognized as medical conditions that weren’t in the
Defining and Measuring Health
Infant mortality rate: number of deaths before the age of one for every 1,000
births. A declining infant mortality rate is an indication in that a countries health
care system is becoming developed.
Leading Causes of death 1901, 2009
Back then people died mostly from infectious diseases. Infectious diseases are
now being “imported”, they don’t result in our own countries, they are being
brought back from underdeveloped countries.
In Canada, the average life expectancy is around 82, the Japanese live longer
along with the French. The top life expectancy countries have proper health care systems, accessible for all citizens, clean drinking water. So life expectancy is a
result from environmental factors as well.
Health Care Costs and Infant Mortality Rate
Health care in Canada is effective and it is fairly cheap, yet in the United States, it
is very expensive and not effective that barely reaches a few people.
Organized, managed, and financed by the Government. It guarantees all
Canadians access to health care, regardless of your income.
Sick Role (Parsons, 1951)
Being sick has a specific functionalist place in the larger social structure. Being sick
for example give you an exemption from certain individual responsibilities such as
work and school. But you have the obligation to get well and obligation to seek
Problems with this perspective?
We aren’t exempt from all roles, you cant stop parenting your child. What
classifies as sick, what isn’t? We treat certain people and certain illnesses
differently. What types of help is legitimate (chicken soup vs. doctor)
Decline in autonomy
Being diagnosed is something in which we have little control. We have to allow
others to diagnose what we have.
Being treated is something we too do not have a lot of control over.
Being at the mercy of others,
Dehumanization Being hospitalized (being mercy of other people, they control your day, tell you
what to do)
Being probed, poked, and prodded (physically at the mercy of other people,
things happen in the hospitals that make a loss of dignity.
Loss of dignity
Illness as socially constructed
Famous experiment: On being sane in insane places
Research team consisted of 12 people, different walks of life, medical
professionals, sociologists, house wife etc. They were given patent roles; in other
words, they were pretending to be ill. They checked in mental help practitioner
and they lied and said they were hearing voices, they presented themselves as
having a physic social problems. They didn’t lie about anything other than the
voices. As soon as they were emitted in the hospital, they stopped acting out the
role. None of the participants ever questioned whether or not they were sick at
all. The average length that participants were in the hospital was about 50 days,
none of them left the hospital without being cured. They were all labeled as
skitsofranic, when they weren’t. A misdiagnosis at the outset places the label on
Being healthy: Childhood obesity as an