Fundamental Causality: Challenges of an Animating Concept for Medical Sociology

  • Jeremy FreeseEmail author
  • Karen Lutfey
Part of the Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research book series (HSSR)


Arguably, the most important problem at the intersection of sociology and epidemiology is how to understand the pervasive positive relationship between various indicators of social position (hereafter, socioeconomic status or SES) and health. The lower status people are, the sooner they die, and the worse health they have while alive. Negative associations between SES and health overall have been found in almost every place and time for which data permit adequate study, implying that the generalization has held even as the prevalence of particular causes of ill-health and death have varied (see reviews in Marmot 2004; Link and Phelan 1995; Deaton 2002; House et al. 1990). In addition, data suggest that the negative association between at least some indicators of SES and some indicators of health may be increasing in some populations, including the United States (Duncan 1996; Lauderdale 2001; Preston and Elo 1995; Steenland et al. 2004; Krieger et al. 2008). Meara et al. (2008) found that while life expectancy had increased 1.6 years between 1990 and 2000 among those who had attended college, it had not increased at all over this same period among those who had not. While various caveats can be raised, none should detract from appreciating that socioeconomic disparities in health in studied populations overwhelmingly are pervasive and profound.


Health Disparity Seat Belt Medical Sociology Purposive Action Enduring Character 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA

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