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Sociology and Health

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Overview

Illness can seem random; yet, an extensive body of evidence suggests that health and disease are patterned in complex ways suggesting a more systematic and social process of disease causation. The first part of this chapter explores the social patterning of health and illness. Evidence linking social divisions, such as class, gender and ethnicity, with experiences of health and healthcare is examined. Sociology contributes to finding explanations for the persistence of social inequalities in health, as well as strategies to eliminate or reduce them.

Part 2 of the chapter explores the methodological approaches of sociology. Sociologists have looked beyond the assumed altruism of health professionals to examine the individual, group and social impact of professional practice. Sociology relies on both evidence and theory. In addition to a critical examination of evidence such as mortality rates, sociology involves the development and testing of theoretical frameworks and perspectives that seek to explain patterns of health and illness.

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Further Reading

  • Annandale, E. (2014). The Sociology of Health and Medicine: A Critical Introduction (2nd ed.). Polity Press.

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  • Bartley, M. (2016). Health Inequality: An Introduction to Concepts, Theories and Methods. John Wiley & Sons.

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  • Cockerburn, W. C. (2013). Social Causes of Health and Disease (2nd ed.). Polity.

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  • Gabe, J., Kelleher, D., & Williams, G. (Eds.). (2006). Challenging Medicine (2nd ed.). Routledge.

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  • Nettleton, S. (2020). The Sociology of Health and Illness (4th ed.). Polity.

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  • Finally, it is important to remember that sociological research often appears in journals before it is described in books. Relevant journals include the Sociology of Health and Illness, Social Science and Medicine, Health, Health Risk and Society, and Frontiers in Sociology.

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Jones, M. (2022). Sociology and Health. In: Naidoo, J., Wills, J. (eds) Health Studies. Palgrave Macmillan, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-16-2149-9_7

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