Article

Health

Sigrun Olafsdottir

in Sociology

ISBN: 9780199756384
Published online July 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0024
Health

More Like This

Show all results sharing these subjects:

  • Sociology
  • Comparative and Historical Sociology
  • Economic Sociology
  • Gender and Sexuality
  • Health, Illness, and Medicine
  • Population and Demography
  • Race and Ethnicity
  • Social Movements and Social Change
  • Social Stratification, Inequality, and Mobility
  • Social Theory

GO

Show Summary Details

Preview

Medical sociology examines the interaction between society and health. It is a broad subfield that focuses on both macro- and micro-level components of health and illness. It generally focuses on both physical and mental health, although the sociology of mental health has emerged as a distinctive subfield (and is covered only minimally in this article). Medical sociology highlights how issues of health and illness are socially constructed, how social factors result in health disparities, how individuals and societies respond to illness, and how the professions and health care are organized within and across societies. Issues of health, illness, and healing reside at the intersection of multiple disciplines, including social epidemiology, public health, demography, sociology of knowledge, and science and technology studies. However, the distinctive contribution of medical sociology is its intense focus on a more theoretical understanding of health than more applied disciplines would offer, as well as an attempt to understand how the different actors and organizations work together to create the health realities of a specific context. Although all of the major social theorists (e.g., Marx, Weber, Durkheim) paid some attention to health-related issues, medical sociology developed later than many other sociological subdisciplines. Medical sociology has gone through three developmental areas. Early on, much research was classified as sociology in medicine, whereby the sociological perspective was used to solve practical problems within medicine. Later, sociologists used issues of health, illness, and healing as a window for understanding larger sociological processes, for example, the socialization of medical students or the impact of societal institutions on individual lives. Currently, some prefer the notion of sociology of health, illness, and healing, reflecting the realities that not all health-related issues take place within the medical realm. Another unique characteristic of the field is that it developed earlier in the United States as compared to Europe, where medical sociologists, until recently, were largely housed within medical schools. This can be explained partly by research funding for sociological research focusing on health, most notably from institutions associated with the National Institutes of Health, as well as the intense attention several key American sociologists have given health and illness, including Talcott Parsons, Erving Goffman, Howard Becker, and Eliot Freidson.

Article.  15555 words. 

Subjects: Sociology ; Comparative and Historical Sociology ; Economic Sociology ; Gender and Sexuality ; Health, Illness, and Medicine ; Population and Demography ; Race and Ethnicity ; Social Movements and Social Change ; Social Stratification, Inequality, and Mobility ; Social Theory

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.