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Sociological approach to health and disease

The sociological perspective:
• What is the sociological perspective? Direct and indirect relationships
• Establishing patterns
• The sociological imagination-
• Sociological theory- pg 7 in Pretoruis
• Why are theories useful and practical?
• The generally accepted definition of a theory
• The main sociological theories:
• 1) Structuralism/ Functionalism (Durkheim): Society as an organism, tendency towards equilibrium, statuses and roles, functions: manifest and latent+ benefits and disadvantages of this approach
• 2) Conflict theory (Karl Marx): Evaluation
• 3) Symbolic theory (Max Weber)
• Comparison of theoretical perspectives
• Applying the theoretical theories:

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Sociological approach to health and disease

  1. 1. Sociological approach to health and disease C. Settley
  2. 2. What is the sociological perspective? • The sociological perspective is a perspective on human behavior and its connection to society as a whole. It invites us to look for the connections between the behavior of individual people and the structures of the society in which they live. Typically, we tend to think of our society as just natural.
  3. 3. What is the sociological perspective? Sociology is a tool towards understanding the world. And to confront its problems. This means that the methods and theories of sociology enable us to collect data for example about how many people are there in a particular society, how the population is distributed in terms of age and what the main health concerns are. Such information enables the authorities to plan for appropriate healthcare provision.
  4. 4. What is the sociological perspective? Now, we have said that: Sociology can be defined as the study of human social life. Think about the following questions: - How has society shaped you? - What institutions have formed you? - How have these institutions formed who you are?
  5. 5. • An important statement to think about is: ‘We are the products of our environment’. - Our environment influence the way we think and how we act. What is the sociological perspective? (Pretorius, 2)
  6. 6. Establishing patterns • The sociological perspective aims to do more than describe events in society. • Hence sociologists attempt to establish generalisations
  7. 7. Example: Different occupations • Instead of classifying occupations, sociologists have come to realise that one can identify groups of people who do more or less the same kind of work for which they are paid more or less similarly…. (Social class!)
  8. 8. Example continued • See stores below: • Casual employees • Fruit ails employees • Dry foods employees • Wine section employees • Furniture employees • Appliances employees • Floor Managers employees • Store managers employees
  9. 9. Establishing patterns continued • Sociologists interested in health and illness could investigate the incidence and prevalence of illnesses among different classes. • They would then further be able to make generalisations about the relationship between health and society, such as the rate of death rate of people from the working class is consistently higher than that of people from the professional class, e.g. doctors, lawyers and business people.
  10. 10. Social classes GENERAL: Broad Schematic Representation of the Social Class 6 Basic Classes with subclasses Varies according to societal dynamics
  11. 11. • This means that sociologists will be able to identify certain patterns pertaining to health in a particular society. • They will be able to explain why these patterns exist and; • What their consequences are for the society. • They can also make recommendations on the patterns. • Regularities of social life. Establishing patterns continued
  12. 12. 6 Basic Social Classes: THE UPPER CLASS • 1-3% of a population • Richest people • Great status and power • Wealth traced back a few generations or amazed their wealth in their own lifetime (Stokes, 1984: 173-174)
  13. 13. 6 Basic Social Classes: THE UPPER MIDDLE CLASS • 10-15% of population • Emphasis on occupations • Professional people who occupy high positions in government and military sector • Includes business people who live comfortably in attractive neighborhoods • Children of this class of people enjoy elite education which enables them to follow similar occupations (Stokes, 1984: 206)
  14. 14. 6 Basic Social Classes: THE MIDDLE CLASS • 20-25% of a population • Differentiated from the lower class on the basis of university education • Occupations are less influential and financially less rewarding than those of the upper middle class (Stokes, 1984: 175)
  15. 15. 6 Basic Social Classes: THE LOWER MIDDLE CLASS • 30-35% of population • Occupations include lower level business management, certain professional and semi- professional occupations, sales and clerical positions • E.g. teaching, nursing • Families in this class have more than one breadwinner in the home (Stokes, 1984: 175) or more than one occupation to generate more income.
  16. 16. 6 Basic Social Classes: THE WORKING CLASS • 25-30 % of population • Skilled and semi- skilled blue- collar workers • Major difference between the lower middle and working class is members of the lower middle class have usually had some form of higher education • However, their income is frequently higher than that of the lower middle class e.g. electricians, plumbers as they earn relatively higher income • Characterized by the fact that these workers usually work away from home for a wage (Stokes, 1984: 176)
  17. 17. 6 Basic Social Classes: THE LOWER CLASS • Unskilled workers • Usually an oversupply of laborers, which means their wages are relatively low • They share a characteristic with the upper class, namely that socially it is a very closed class • It is just as difficult for the members of the lower class to rise above their class as it is for outsiders to enter the upper class (Stokes, 1984: 176)
  18. 18. Nb!!!!!!!! In analyses on Social stratification Max Weber(1946) highlighted 3 categories of importance
  19. 19. Wealth • Refers to collection of all assets that an individual accumulates/own – stock shares properties investments homes and land • Uneven distribution of wealth between inhabitants of the world • The few richest of the population own most of the wealth -80% of multitudes of poor own virtually close to nothing - 20% • Social stratification is determined by wealth • NB: Income wage and salaries
  20. 20. Power • Refers to the ability to control or influence others • Power need not necessarily be rewarded – usually associated with status for it to work • Difficult to measure • Usually unequally divided in all societies
  21. 21. Prestige • Criteria is unequal distribution of prestige. • Comes in many forms:-public recognition and fame, respect and admiration, honour and esteem. • Determined in many cases by occupational status, in other words an important position in society has a high prestige value. • Often different from class division- may be positive or negative • Subjective and personal
  22. 22. Effects of stratification on health & life expectancy Du Toit (p.115) • In S.A. one should guard against generalisation and speculation. • Members of upper class tends to be healthier and live longer than those in the lower classes. • Lower class exhibits higher morbidity and mortality rate than upper class
  23. 23. Effects of stratification on health & life expectancy Ascribed to several factors : 1. Exposure to dangerous working conditions, overpopulation, poor living conditions, poor sanitation, malnutrition, alcoholism, air pollution, unhygienic conditions and poor to no antenatal care influence the health and life expectancy of the lower classes.
  24. 24. 2. Lower class receive less health care. •Frequently do not have money for medical funds to consult doctors. •Medical therapists with prejudice. •Communication gap between medical staff and lower socio-economic groups. Effects of stratification on health & life expectancy
  25. 25. 3. Lower socio-economic status associated with high BP, HPT, cancers of lungs, stomach, oesophagus. • Professionals and upper-class pay attention to regular exercise, diets, rest and regular medical examinations. 4. Sufferers of chronic diseases also experience a lowering of status if they loose their job as a result of their illness. • upward mobility is hampered. 5. Chances of becoming a victim of violence are twice as high for people in the lower class than those in the middle class. Effects of stratification on health & life expectancy
  26. 26. Global Stratification and Life Expectancy, 2006
  27. 27. Sociological theories • Theories are considered practical and useful because they: • - enable a better understanding of human social behavior • - allow us to make predictions about future behavior and events • - assist us in making suggestions for interventions or change • What is a theory? • - comprises a set of interrelated concepts, definitions and propositions • - presents a systemic view of phenomena by specifying relations among variables • - aims to explain and predict these phenomena
  28. 28. Structuralism/functionalism • A Systems approach • Society is a system that operates like a living organism (the body) and consists of interrelated and interdependent parts or subsystems such as families, education, religions, politics and economy (organs) • Each subsystem functions to maintain a healthy society • So, the subsystem of the family is dependent upon the subsystem of education to prepare the children for jobs in order to support their own families • Society work together to produce order, stability, productivity
  29. 29. Structuralism/functionalism • A tendency towards equilibrium • By means of socialization • Values and norms are being internalized by members of the society • Values and norms become part of their nature • Act according to the rules and expectations of the particular society • Aim of socialization is to reach consensus/cohesion. ‘the glues that holds the society together’ • When Social change occurs rapidly, society becomes unsure of the social norms. • Societies have various social control mechanisms- informal and formal sanctions
  30. 30. Structuralism/functionalism • Functions • 1) Manifest functions- intentional, planned and obvious • 2) Latent functions- unintended , not obvious and unrecognized
  31. 31. Structuralism/functionalism • Strengths of Structural Functionalism: • 1) There is a general consensus about the values and norms of society by the majority e.g. wealth is good, murder is bad. • 2) Society is made up of integrated parts that are tied together, thus if something is wrong with one it will effect the others. (It functions like the organs of our body). These parts in society are the institutions of our society e.g. family, school, economy, justice system, etc. • 3) Society tends to seek stability and avoid conflict. Conflict is seen as dysfunctional. • 4) Macro level analysis
  32. 32. Structuralism/functionalism • Strengths of Structural Functionalism: • 1) There is a general consensus about the values and norms of society by the majority e.g. wealth is good, murder is bad. • 2) Society is made up of integrated parts that are tied together, thus if something is wrong with one it will effect the others. (It functions like the organs of our body). These parts in society are the institutions of our society e.g. family, school, economy, justice system, etc. • 3) Society tends to seek stability and avoid conflict. Conflict is seen as dysfunctional. • 4) Macro level analysis
  33. 33. Structuralism/functionalism • Weaknesses of Structural Functionalism: • They do not see anything wrong with inequality in a society based on class, gender or race. • Is not open to social change • Does not look at the causes (root) of social problems • Less concerned with the ways in which individuals are able to control their own destiny. • Tend to over-emphasise the harmonious nature of society.
  34. 34. Conflict theory •Conflict theory is a prominent sociological theory that is often contrasted with structural functionalism. It also tried to address the shortcoming of structural functionalism.
  35. 35. Conflict theory •When conflict theorist look at society, they do not see a system striving for equilibrium, but rather a system characterised by inequality and a constant struggle and conflict over resources. •One of the basic assumptions of this theory is that competition rather than consensus is characteristics of human relationships. •Society is made up of individuals competing for limited resources, such as anti-retroviral medicine, money, leisure, etc.
  36. 36. Conflict theory •Strengths of Conflict theory: •Able to explain social change in society •Views society from the perspective of the underdog, the underprivileged.
  37. 37. Conflict theory •Weaknesses of Conflict theory: •Focus on conflict results in downplaying or overlooking the elements of society that different groups and individuals share. •It overlooks the stability of society. •It has an overly negative view of society. •It emphasizes on inequality has led some critics to argue that it is a perspective motivated by a particular political agenda.
  38. 38. Symbolic theory • Aims to understand the relationship between individuals and society, and is engage in analysis on a micro level. • It focus on the subjective aspects of social life, rather than objective, macro structural aspects of social life.
  39. 39. Symbolic theory • Symbol is something used to represent or stand for something else. • Wedding- wedding bands, cake, church, etc. • People attached meaning to symbols, such as language, dress and gesture and then act according to their subjective interpretation of it. • Conversation is an interaction of symbols between individuals, words being the predominant ones.
  40. 40. Comparison of theoretical perspectives SOCIOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE KEY CONCEPTS MAIN ASSUMPTIONS Structural functionalism Manifest and latent functions Dysfunctions Social stability Social institutions are structured to maintain stability and order in society Conflict theory Power Inequality Conflict dominance The various institutions in society promote inequality and conflict among groups of people Symbolic interactionism Symbolic communication Social interaction Subjective meaning Society is structured and maintained through everyday interactions and people’s subjective definitions of their worlds
  41. 41. Applying the theoretical perspectives • All 3 theories have positive and negative characteristics. • Meaning that one or more perspective has to be used at times to understand a particular phenomenon. • Read page 22 in Pretoruis et al. • Sociological approaches are differentiated by the level of analysis. Macrosociology involves the study of widespread social processes . Microsociology involves the study of people at a more interpersonal level, as in face-to-face interactions.
  42. 42. References • Du Toit, D. & le Roux, E. (2014). Nursing sociology. 5th ed. Pretoria: Van Schaik. • Source: Data from World Bank. (2009). World development report 2009. Washington, DC: Author. • Pretorius, E., Matebesi, Z. & Ackerman, L. 2013. Juta’s Sociology for Healthcare Providers. South Africa: Juta and Company.