Sociology of health and illness

The sociology of health and illness, sociology of health and wellness, or health sociology examines the interaction between society and health. As a field of study it is interested in all aspects of life, including contemporary as well as historical influences, that impact and alter our health and wellbeing.[1][2]

Nursing student graduate Luis Figueroa (center) participates in the reading of the International Nurses' Pledge during Germanna Community College's Nursing and Health Technologies convocation, held at the Fredericksburg Expo and Conference Center in Fredericksburg, Virginia, USA.

It establishes that, from our births to our deaths, social processes interweave and influence our health and wellbeing. These influences could be where we were brought up, how illness is understood and framed by immediate community members, or the impact that technology has with our health. As such, it outlines that both our health and the medical science that engages it are social constructs; that our way of knowing illness, wellbeing, and our interactions with them are socially interpreted.[3][4]

Health sociology uses this insight to critique long established ideas around the human body as a mechanical entity alongside disrupting the idea that the mind and body can be treated as distinct spaces. This biomedical model is viewed as not holistically placing humans within the wider social, cultural, economic, political, and environmental contexts that play a large part in how health and wellbeing are deprived, maintained, or improved. Alternative models include the biopsychosocial model[5][6] that aims to incorporate these elements alongside the psychological aspect of the mind.

This field of research acts as a broad school overlapping with areas like the sociology of medicine, sociology of the body, sociology of disease[7] to wider sociologies like that of the family or education as they contribute insights from their dinstinct focuses on the life-course of our health and wellness.[8]

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