Health & Illness

Topics: Social class, Middle class, Health Pages: 7 (1889 words) Published: August 9, 2008
What do you understand by the concept of “ good health”? Say how this idea has been shaped in modern Western society.

In general, people do concern about their health. However, how much do they care about, when do they really notice they are healthy or not, and how much do they understand terms of health and good health, these questions have been taken account by some social scientists and they have defined some definitions about it to illustrate the idea of health. Generally, people would not think about their health until they have lost it. “ When you are in good health, you don’t think about it, you think of other things.” Said Leriche. When you ask people if they are healthy and why? Normally, if they think they are healthy, they say ‘ I am healthy, because I am happy, I sleep well, and feel strong…’ But there is more than one definitions of health in people’s experience and everyday life, for example, the idea of health will be different between different social classes of people and which were mainly defined by Parsons, Kelman, Baumann, Herzlich, Pill&Stott, Blaxter that will be explained later in my essay.

About the early research, Parsons argued health is a functional prerequisite for the maintenance of the social system, as it maximizes the capacity of the individual to carry out effectively the roles and activities he or she has been socialized for. A Marxist approach, the most prevalent definition of health in western capitalist society is the functional definition of health, where good health is based on the effective performance of normal roles. Kelman argues that a definition of health markedly different from the prevalent one, but perhaps more congruent with the interest of the workforce, is an experiential definition of health. (Calnan M, 1987) The value of health is defined differently according to different social class people: health is a physical issue that what working class and middle class women defined as, moreover, middle class women think mental aspect is also important to health because middle class women included happiness when they were defining the term health and working class women thus concern about unhappiness. Below table 1 is D’Houtard and Field did the research on people who were in different social classes in France in 1984 with the question of ‘ are you a healthy person? Yes, because…’

Type of explanationS.c I + II
S.c IV + V

‘Positive’ definitionNo.No.
1Energetic/active/plenty of exercise83
2Feel fit32
3Feel well/alright32
4Eat the right thing52
5Correct weight11
6Have a positive outlook1
7Have a good life/marriage1
8Can work with anyone1
9Miscellaneous 4
‘Negative’ definition
10Never ill/never have anything wrong613
11Don’t get many illness/rarely ill112
12Don’t get serious illnesses22
13Don’t get coughs and colds5
14Only get coughs and colds616
15Have check-ups—nothing wrong1
16Rarely off work/never have time off work41
17Only in bed once1
18Rarely go to doctor/hospital44
19Recover quickly from minor illnesses4
20Don’t think/worry about illness4
21No recurrent illnesses2
Tables 1, Definition of health, are you a healthy person? Yes, because…(Calnan M, 1987:30) From table 1, we can see that middle class women had more definitions about health than those working class women; and comparably, middle class women had more positive thinking of health (e.g. feel fit/feel alright) whereas those working class women were thinking about the negative definition to health (e.g. not ill/rarely go to doctor). Thus, different social classes have different definitions to health. Therefore, this brings me to the next figure, which is also being asked by the researchers and was responded by those different social classes women with the question of ‘what is health and not being healthy?’

Type of explanationS.c I + II
S.c IV + V

Health is …...

Bibliography: 1, Calnan M, 1987, Health and Illness: the lay perspective, London and New York: Tavistock
2, Herzlich C, Graham D, 1973, Health and Illness, A Social Psychological Analysis, London and New York: Academic
3, Radley A, 1994, Making Sense of Illness, the social psychology of health and disease, London: Sage
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