M2 – Use different sociological perspectives to discuss patterns and trends of health and illness in two different social groups D1 – Evaluate different sociological explanations for patterns and trends of health and illness in two different social groups
In this assignment I hope to effectively discuss and evaluate the patterns and trends associated with health and illness within the higher and lower social classes. I am going to do this by discussing and evaluating the following explanations and perspectives within sociology; Artefact explanation, Natural or Social Selection explanation, Cultural or Behavioural explanation and Materialist or Structuralist explanation.
This explanation suggests that statistics show an unfair prejudice towards lower class people. Because of the high numbers of older and middle aged people working in dangerous jobs it was assumed that they would have higher levels of illness and mortality. This suggests that employment and age are also important contributing factors when explaining the differences, not just social class. Reporting of ill health must also be considered within these statistics as it is known that within our culture; men are less likely to seek help or report illness unlike women. This explanation has some weakness although as it doesn’t clearly explain the inequalities in health within both social classes even though evidence shows that people from a higher social class live longer. But despite this weakness, the fact that this explanation uses quantitative methods for collecting data shows that it is more reliable. This explanation is strengthened further because the evidence collected can be used to talk about a vast amount of people in general.
Natural or Social selection explanation
This explanation has a completely opposing view on ill health and social class than that of the artefact explanation. This explanation believes that people are in a low class because they have poor health and have a lack of motivation and energy needed for promotion. It believes ill health causes people to fall into poverty, rather than poverty causing people to fall into ill health. The weakness of this explanation is that it has been rejected by sociologists because it has been proven through evidence that poor health is a result of poverty and deprived circumstances and not a cause of it.
Cultural or Behavioural explanation
This approach considers the behaviour and lifestyles of people in the lower classes. Evidence collected showed that people in lower classes smoked and drank more than those in higher classes. It also showed that they had poor diets and nutrition and didn’t exercise. These lifestyle choices were linked to illnesses such as; heart disease, diabetes and cancer. This explanation believes that these lifestyles are chosen by the individual. It believes that the individual is responsible for their own behaviour and responsible for their own healthy lifestyle choices. This explanation doesn’t take into account the possibility that for many people smoking and drinking helps them to cope with their difficult circumstances and that these circumstances are what causes them to make these lifestyle choices.
It also doesn’t consider why people in lower classes make these unhealthy choices; it doesn’t take the fact that they may be forced into these unhealthy lifestyles due to money problems or lack of services available to them into consideration. This explanation is more of a blame game than an explanation; it blames people for their lifestyle choices but doesn’t explain why they have to make these choices. The only strength within the cultural explanation is that the government can now help these people by putting new policies into place.
Material or Structural explanation
This explanation believes that inequalities are caused by differences in wealth and income between the social classes. This explanation associates poverty and low income with poor diet, poor housing and dangerous, insecure employment. It is these inequalities which lead to the differences in health and well-being between the social classes. This explanation sows the effects of society on health. It shows how inequalities are caused because of society and not individuals themselves. It explains the impact of factors such as:
It highlights that people in low socio-economic groups may be less able to afford good food, good housing conditions in a good area and they may have little or no access to sport or health-care facilities. It also explains that doctors may spend more time with patients from higher classes and that areas where there are a large number of lower class people have poor health care services. This explanation is good because it outlines and explains why there are differences in behaviour between groups within society. It is also good because it has led the government to pass laws of pollution rates and has made them ensure that working and housing conditions are improving.