Sociological Context of Health and Social Care


Discuss about sociological context of health and social care.

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 The main aim of this essay is to understand the health and social care from the perspective of sociology. Since there are many different views on health thus it is very difficult to have a particular definition of health. For example in Mauritania, a small country in North West Africa, obesity is not considered a health issue and instead it is considered a sign of beauty and so the girls are force fed so that when they grow up they look obese. But in the western countries obesity is considered a serious health issue and obese peoples are considered as unattractive and many negative stereotypes are associated with the obesity. In African countries obesity is considered as sign of prosperity and well-being. Thus it is important for the health care practitioners to study sociology so that they can get better understanding about the connection between the humans and the manner in which affect the individuals. In this essay various sociological perspectives that are employed in the health and social care will be examined.

Sociology may be defined as the study of “human behavioral interactions, there is a great deal of connection between this social science and topics within the health and social care field” (Dennis and Martin, 2005). It is matter of research to determine how the society and the social forces affect the health of a human being.  There are number of perspectives in sociology and the principle perspectives are functionalism, the Marxism and feminism, internationalism, post modernism and the collectivism. In case to sociological theory there is no single perspective. Since sociologists asks various questions about the world and those answers to those questions are provided using the social theory which are correct in a particular context and time and most of these theories contradict each other. Thus a sociologist understands that there are no single answers to a particular question.

Functionalist Approach:

Talcott Parson developed the functionalist approach on health and ill. According to Talcott ill health is a great threat to the society and for the proper functioning of the society good health was extremely important. As per Talcott ill health affects the ability of a person to perform his tasks and execute his duties towards the society. he said that in order to consider a person sick there are several expectations that are needed to be met. He coined the term “sick role” to explain those expectations, which shows how people are supposed to be like when they are ill and what are their thoughts when they are ill. The sick roles are divided into two main categories, one is the right and the other one is the obligations.

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According to this category a sick person should be free from any kind of social roles. For example whether a sick person is in work or school he should be allowed to take at least a day’s holiday so that he can get back normal. Further as per talcott a sick person is not responsible for his condition.


When a person is ill, then he should visit a doctor to get medical attention. A sick person should like being sick, like any person should not fake his medical condition to get attention of others or get a leave from the office. But there are cases when the sick role backfires and the people lose patience with the person and deny that the person is sick for a reason. For example in the family if a person falls sick, initially they will fell sympathetic with them but after some time there patience might run out they start assuming that either the person is sick because he wants to gain the attention or the person is hypochondriac.

Marxist and the Feminist Approach

According to Marxist approach the health and the social care are generally provide to allow the bourgeoisies gain profit. According to the Marxist ideology the health and the social care is provided to the service users so that they can get back to work as early as possible, so that they can work for the bourgeoisies (Borrell-Carrio, 2004). thus in order to maintain a balance the hierarchy in the society the government bans selling of the various products which can harm to the health of the human beings such a s cigarettes, tobacco etc.  In the modern world context, the hierarachy is in the shape of the pyramid where a few elite people sit at the top of the pyramid, controlling and manipulating the services such that rich can remain rich and providing no chance to the poor people to move up the hierarchy.

According to the feminist approach the medical service providers and the pharmaceutical companies have given very less importance on the promotion and development of the male contraceptives which have very less side effects as compared to the contraceptives that are used by females. As per the arguments given by the feminists, this kind of acts are purposefully designed to suppress the rights and the abilities of the women so that it becomes difficult for a women to work outside and they presume their role as a house wife. Like a woman who suffers from depression and nausea while working in the office will not be able to perform her tasks as properly as her male counterparts, thus she will be termed inferior. This shows that in the present society the medicines used by women has full of side effects so as to marginalize the women and allow the males to be more dominant in the society.

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Marxists and the feminists may argue that in the present setup of the society women are receiving the proper medication like their male counterparts receive. In the society women have two main roles to play which are known as double day, which shows the two kinds roles that a women plays in the society. The first role is that of the house wife, which involves taking care of her domestic duties and the second one is that of an employee in an office. According to sociologist Doyal, since women have to play two roles in the society thus they are prone to sickness. She says that she personally believes that the medication that they receive if given to them they will witness less side effects. She points out that the more women are sick at the present society due to the lack of consideration and the dominance of men in the society.

Even in the modern times there is no clear definition of health care. At present there are two opposing theories of health, one considers good health means ‘absence of disease’ while according to the other theory a good health is not just related to absence of disease but it should also consider ‘a state of physical, mental, spiritual and social well-being’. According to me the negative concept among the both is that of ‘absence of disease’ as per which a person has to be diagnosed with a disease in order to be considered unhealthy. The positive definition of health is given by the World Health Organisation(WHO) in 1974, “not merely an absence of disease but also a state of physical, mental, spiritual and social well-being’ means that you don’t have to be diagnosed with a disease you could be mentally ill ,physically, spiritually ,socially, emotionally, or intellectually” (Bittles et al., 2007). Thus in view of the above definitions most of the health and the social care practitioners take the holistic view so as to address the issue of the complete person not just taking care of the symptoms.  A survey conducted by sociologist Milfred Blaxter determined three main definitions of health. One is the positive definition where health is regarded as being fit, the second one is the negative one where health is considered to being free of pain and discomfort and the third one is the functional definition a person is considered to be healthy if he is able to perform various day to day tasks.

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The main concept of interactionism revolves around analyzing the behaviors  and actions of an individual in a small social group. The thought of an individual develop on the type of interaction that a person have in the society. According to this perspective the labeling is used by the authority to stereotype people. in the context of health and social care it is important to analyze the relationship between the health care professionals and the patients. This perspective has focused mainly on the micro sociology factors and is unable to analyze the macro sociological phenomenon such as the social structure, patterns of inequality and power.

Strengths and weaknesses of the Parsons sick role model:


The idea of sick role has enabled a lot of research. The sick role model as proposed by parson a strong role in the cross cultural comparison of the manner in which the time out and the normal duties can be achieved or the manner in which the deviant behavior can be analysed.


This model fails to analyze the conflict of the interest of the doctors and the patients and how this conflict of interest can create imbalance. Further a sick person does not automatically become a patient as people generally rely on the opinions of others to take the professional consultations. Also a patient does not always mean sick like in case of pregnancy, contraception and vaccinations. Further the model criterion of the temporary condition does not suit the chronic diseases and there is no place for the abnormal behavior in the model. Also the patrician model of medicine is also out of date.

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Concepts of Ill health:

Clinical Iceberg:

Clinical iceberg is the term that is used to describe the unreported illness. According to the various statistics 94% of the diseases are not reported. Like Lyme disease which is one of those disease which has highest number of unreported cases that are shown in the statistics.


Impairment may be defined as that health condition which restricts a person to perform his day to day activities, like the physical and the mental dysfunction like the Down syndrome which is a learning difficulty.


According to Tom Shakespeare, disability may be defined as those restrictions which arise for a person with impairments since the society does not considers the needs of the persons suffering from impairment for example there are very few ramps in the building for the wheel chairs and people suffering from deafness having no access to hearing aids. Some people also consider terming it as a ‘disabling environment’ where the environment does not provide facilities to the people suffering from impairment (Akkerman, 2005).


In this essay various aspects of health and social care under the context of sociology has been discussed. The main perspectives of sociology that are related to the sociology has been presented. the medical model and the how it affects the treatment of the patients have been discussed. In media health and social care is discussed as a political topic. The proper study of the sociological perspectives and their relation with the health and social care may be helpful in thje creation of a more egalitarian, healthy society.

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