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Health, Aging and Society
Elena Neiterman

Chapter 8: The Experience of Being Ill Illness, Sickness, and Disease: -Disease: diagnosed by a physician; usually believed to be located in specific organs or systems in the body and curable through specific biomedical treatments -illness: the personal experience of the person who acknowledges that he or she does not feel well -sickness: refers to the social actions taken by a person as a result of illness or disease, such as taking medication, visiting the doctor, resting in bed, or staying away from work -therefore, patients feel illness and act sickness while physicians diagnose disease -everything people feel, say, think and do about their illness is culturally and socially mediated -social-structural and cultural factors influence whether a person visits a chiropractor, naturopath masseuse, conventional medical doctor, or the health food store when feeling ill -Gloria Steinem (1983)  Illustrated how illness, sickness and disease may be sociological or in this case, gendered determinations  Suggested that beliefs about menstruation are socially determined (so if men menstruated there would be different outcomes and consequences, meaning men would think highly of themselves and more money would be put towards this illness if men had it) -Klawiter (1999)  Studied variations in identities constructed by breast cancer activists in the San Francisco Bay area  3 distinct constructions of breast cancer causes and relevancies by the 3 different social movements organized in the interests of: Raising funds for breast cancer research Protesting cancer-creating industries Environmental causes of and supporting those living with breast cancer Variations in the Experience of Being Ill: -Westerners tend to see illness as empirically caused and mechanically or chemically treatable -illness is seen as a combination of spiritual, mental and physical phenomena -experiences of pain vary from one social and cultural group to another -Zborowski (1952) did a study and found that patients in NYC from Jewish and Italian backgrounds responded emotionally to suffering and tended to dwell on their painful experience -what is viewed as disease or health varies from society to society -notions of health & disease also depend on age, gender, socio-economic status, & numerous other social conditions -among Canadians today, Obesity is considered a medical condition with associated treatments, symptoms, tests, risk factors Popular Conceptions of Health, Illness and Disease: -medical and lay people hold beliefs about illness, its causes, and its appropriate treatments -Cornwell (1984)  Distinguished between medicalization-from-above and medicalization-from-below  Medicalization-from-above: refers to definitions of reality that are the result of developments in scientific medicine  Medicalization-from-below: refers to the acceptance and the rejection of such definitions on the part of lay people Illness as Carelessness and Failure: -contemporary health promotion is built on the assumption that individuals are responsible for staying well Chapter 8: The Experience of Being Ill -medical care system is based on aggressive intervention once a disease has been detected; assumption is that the earlier the detection the better -a good citizen/moral person = a healthy person Illness as Choice: -illness is a result of thinking and feeling as well as of bodily processes -we use illnesses as an excuse from our daily routines -imaging may be the most dramatic of the techniques used to combat cancer ‘psychologically’ -within the model of health/illness an important part of healing and of improving the quality of life is taking responsibility for one’s state of health and choosing
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