The Nature Scale And Causes Of Health Inequalities Sociology Essay Example
The Nature Scale And Causes Of Health Inequalities Sociology Essay Example

The Nature Scale And Causes Of Health Inequalities Sociology Essay Example

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  • Pages: 10 (2608 words)
  • Published: August 20, 2017
  • Type: Research Paper
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The Department of Health in the UK launched the black study on Inequalities in healthcare, introduced by Health Minister David Ennals in 1977. Its aim was to investigate why the NHS had not effectively addressed societal health disparities. The study involved analyzing the lifestyles and health records of individuals from various social classes. Findings showed that although national health had improved overall, there were unequal levels of progress among different social groups, resulting in increasing health inequalities between lower and higher social classes.

Both category and ethnicity were found to be significant factors contributing to this problem.


The study primarily focused on social class among black individuals. It revealed that those in the middle and upper classes have higher standards of living, better quality of life, and improved health compared to those in the working class and lower class. The study identified


four explanations for the disparities in life expectancy and illness among different social classes:

The first explanation is the significant artifact explanation which states that age, profession, and social class (upper, middle, working or lower) play a crucial role.

The second explanation is natural or social expectations. It argues that being in a lower social class or having lower incomes, poverty, and inadequate housing do not cause illness; instead, they lead to unfavorable circumstances. A lack of resources contributes to these circumstances.

The primary emphasis of cultural or behavioral explanations is on the conduct and lifestyle decisions of individuals in lower social classes. It has been noted that individuals in the working class frequently partake in unhealthy eating, insufficient physical activity, smoking, and alcohol consumption. These behaviors have also been associated with ailments such as cancer, bronchitis, diabetes,

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and heart disease. It is crucial to acknowledge that these lifestyle choices stem from difficult circumstances rather than being the root cause.

In working class households, social factors such as inadequate housing, low income, unfavorable environments, and insecure employment are more common. Research confirms that these factors contribute significantly to poor health.

Regarding ethnicity, children from Asian households have a greater incidence of rickets due to insufficient vitamin D in their diet. Additionally, most ethnic minority groups have shorter life expectancy and higher rates of infant mortality.

Migrant workers encounter challenges in societal and economic contexts, often related to accessing healthcare services. These difficulties arise from cultural and linguistic barriers, such as Asian women feeling uncomfortable seeking medical help from male doctors. Translating between two distinct languages also poses challenges, as accurately conveying the same meaning can be difficult.

Regional disparities in wellness and unwellness exist among the UK countries, resulting in varying rates of morbidity and mortality. Specifically, England's North West, Northern, and Yorkshire regions have elevated lung cancer rates compared to the national average. Conversely, the South Western, Southern, and Eastern regions exhibit lower rates. These variations underscore the unequal levels of illness and death experienced across different areas within the country. Multiple factors including social class, gender, age, and ethnicity contribute to determining an individual's susceptibility to sickness or mortality.

Social category and ethnicity: How societal groups affect wellness issues

This article investigates the impact of social category and ethnicity on wellness issues, exploring sociological perspectives and analyzing different forms and tendencies associated with these groups.

The relationship between socioeconomic status and infant mortality rate (IMR) is notable. Infants born into disadvantaged families have a higher IMR compared to

those from wealthier backgrounds. Moreover, individuals of higher social class have lower mortality rates for diseases such as cancer, heart diseases, and strokes, and generally experience longer lifespans. In 1980, the Black Report examined health disparities among various social groups and provided valuable insight into the link between socioeconomic factors, environmental influences, health outcomes, and life expectancy.

According to Stretch (2007, Pg361), there is substantial evidence suggesting that health standards, illness rates, and life expectancy differ among various social groups within our society, particularly in relation to social class. This discrepancy can be explained by the fact that higher social classes possess the financial means to avail private healthcare services. Furthermore, their income is significantly greater, resulting in an improved quality of life and housing situation. On the contrary, individuals with lower-paying occupations frequently encounter substandard housing conditions as well as challenges affording nutritious food and heating costs.

According to the Office for National Statistics and the National Records of Scotland, in 2009, approximately 25-27% of infant deaths in Great Britain were caused by conditions during the perinatal period. Life expectancy data from 2009 is based on projections from 2008 and indicates a significant increase over time. From 1930 to 2009, there was an approximately 20-year increase in life expectancy at birth for both males and females in the UK. In 1930, males had a life expectancy of 58.7 years while females had a life expectancy of 63.0 years. By 2009, these numbers had risen to 78.1 years for males and 82.1 years for females, representing around a 33% increase for males and about a 30% increase for females.

At age sixty-five, there was an over fifty percent

increase in life expectancy compared to what it was in1930; going from11.7 years formalesand13 .5yearsforfemales to18yearsformalesand20 .5yearsforfemalesin2009.Intheperiodof2007-09,thehighestperiodlifeexpectancyatbirthintheUKwasseeninEngland with78 . Oyearsmale sand82 M Wyeafarsfemale s ,while Scotland h adthelowestwith75 .3 y e ars male sand80 .1 year sfemale s (ONS ,2010b). The main reason behind this increased life expectancy is a decrease in infant mortality rates (deaths under one year old), which dropped by93 %from63 .1per1000livebirthsin1930toarecordlowof4 .5per1000in2010

There has been a significant decrease in neonatal mortality rates over the years, with a 90% decline from 31.5 per 1,000 live births in 1930 to 3.1 per 1,000 live births in 2010. Health disparities exist among different cultural groups as well. In April 2001 in England and Wales, Pakistani and Bangladeshi men and women reported the highest rates of poor health and long-term illness, while Chinese men and women reported the lowest rates.

Looking at specific health conditions by cultural group and sex during that time period: South Asian people had higher rates of heart disease and high blood pressure; Black Caribbean people had higher rates of high blood pressure but not heart disease; all cultural minority groups had higher rates of diabetes but lower rates of respiratory illness; Black Caribbean people, particularly young men, had high rates of hospital admission for severe mental disorders (psychosis).

According to a report titled "Why are some cultural minority groups at more risk of ill health than others?" from the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology in January 2007, these disparities in health exist among ethnic minority groups. While variations can be observed within different Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) groups, they generally experience poorer health compared to the overall population. The health disparities

experienced by different BME groups vary in specific forms.Recent research has revealed that cultural health disparities primarily stem from the lower socio-economic status of certain groups. Although various strategies have been implemented to tackle health inequalities, ethnicity has only recently started to receive significant attention as a central focus.

In the UK, diversity takes many forms and has important social and political consequences. This includes differences in race, culture, religion, and nationality, all of which contribute to an individual's identity and how others perceive them. Individuals may identify themselves as British, Asian, Indian, Punjabi or Glaswegian depending on the situation. The Health Survey for England reveals that health challenges are more likely to be faced by Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities.

Health problems among the BME community tend to occur earlier in life compared to White British individuals. Ethnicity is a more significant factor than other socio-economic factors in determining rates of illness. However, various cultural differences in health are influenced by multiple overlapping factors. Some BME groups have worse health outcomes than others. For instance, studies consistently demonstrate that Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Black-Caribbean individuals report the lowest levels of well-being. On the other hand, Indian, East African Asian, and Black African individuals have similar health levels as White British people, while Chinese individuals enjoy better overall health.

Different forms of cultural inequalities in wellness exist across various wellness conditions. For instance, BME groups have higher rates of cardio-vascular disease compared to White British individuals, while they have lower rates of several malignant neoplastic diseases. Ethnicity impacts health differently based on age groups, with the most significant variation seen among the elderly. Moreover, cultural disparities in wellness

differ between male and female populations, as well as among different geographic regions.

Cultural differences in wellness may vary among generations. For instance, within certain BME groups, rates of poor health are higher among UK-born individuals compared to first generation immigrants. Sociologists attempt to explain how society stratifies itself, but there are multiple conflicting theories. Some widely known theories include Marxism, Functionalism, and Interactionism.

There are various contemporary theories, including Feminism, which is one of them. Each sociological perspective holds different beliefs. Marxists focus on the distribution of economic power and wealth and argue that society is engaged in a conflict between two social classes.

The Bourgeoisie and the Proletariat are two social categories in society. The Bourgeoisie possess ownership of the means of production, whereas the Proletariat trade their labor to the Bourgeoisie in return for compensation. The Bourgeoisie exploit the Proletariat, leading to their economic and cultural hegemony over them. Marxists contend that this relationship generates conflict, tension, and opposition between these factions.

Conversely, functionalists draw a parallel between societal structure and a human body.

In order for society to operate effectively, every aspect must function correctly, similar to the organs in a body. Interactionism can be paralleled with a theatrical performance, where each individual has a role in building a prosperous society. This viewpoint is aligned with functionalism, which also underscores the significance of individuals fulfilling their roles. The biomedical model of health exclusively concentrates on physical functioning and defines poor health and illness as the existence of disease and symptoms caused by physical factors like injury or infection. It disregards social and psychological influences.

The field of biomedicine believes that understanding individuals' body components can simplify the

comprehension of their complexities, leading to improved health outcomes. On the other hand, the societal model of health considers how society and the environment impact an individual's overall well-being. This includes factors like social class, occupation, education, income, poverty, diet, and pollution. For example, inadequate housing conditions and poverty may cause respiratory problems. The socio-model aims to address these causes by advocating for better housing and implementing programs to alleviate poverty. Both models aim to explain health inequalities.

The cardinal cultural account emphasizes the personal effects of behavior such as poor diet, excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, drug addiction, sexual patterns, or lack of exercise. According to this perspective, reducing inequalities in health requires individuals to make healthier behavioral choices. On the other hand, the health choice account argues that individuals in poor health will inevitably be at the bottom of society, leading to pervasive and inevitable inequality. People in this group are also least likely to change unhealthy lifestyles.

The structural account emphasizes that factors beyond an individual's control impact their opportunities for life and wellness. Issues related to employment, unemployment, social status, education, income, quality of life, living conditions, and poverty are crucial in determining a person's well-being. It is important for individuals to have knowledge about health issues and how to prevent or treat poor health.

The socio-theoretical model of health views health as a socially constructed concept that is influenced by historical, social, and cultural factors. The underlying causes of diseases and ill health are rooted in societal factors and the way society is organized. Different perspectives such as feminism highlight root causes related to patriarchy and oppression. Knowledge is not absolute but shaped

by historical, social, and cultural contexts.

On the other hand , the biomedical model of health sees health as a biological fact and the norm .It perceives the body as a machine with illness arising from its malfunction .Ill health is seen as an abnormality ,and it is mainly caused by biological factors like viruses , bacteria , genetic traits , or injuries .Diagnosis involves observing signs and symptoms to determine the cause of the illness .Individuals have limited involvement in interventions for restoring health .The understanding of health , illness ,and social factors contributing to illness is disregarded .Emphasis is placed on finding a cure rather than preventing illness.

Culture plays a significant role in the cognition and understanding of mental health. Cultural beliefs determine how individuals perceive and cope with stress, as well as how they seek assistance. In certain cultures, individuals with depression and anxiety disorders may exhibit physical or psychosomatic symptoms. As Britain becomes more diverse, aiming for a melting pot of nations and ethnicities rather than distinct cultural groups, our society is gradually adjusting. Each culture has its own definition of normalcy and abnormality. Consequently, the concept of mental illness is intertwined with the likelihood of seeking help and the type of assistance sought, including the choice of provider.

It is important to note that traditional psychotherapeutics developed from both the existential and psychoanalytic models that were brought from Europe. Sigmund Freud, who is now a household name, played a significant role in shaping the psychodynamic approach that is used today. The humanistic approach, associated with Carl Rogers, emerged from European existential theories, which American psychologists considered to be overly gloomy. Many of

these European theorists believed that much of a person's issues stem from death anxiety. The humanistic approach emphasizes a more positive view of the individual. The therapist focuses on responding to the client with empathy, warmth, and genuine respect.

Regardless of the approach to intervention, it is important for mental health providers to understand the client's perception of mental illness (Hall, 2005). The term 'mental health' gained popularity in the early 1900s and was promoted by doctors, social reformists, and former asylum patients. Their aim was to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness and argue that the term 'illness' perpetuated biases against asylum patients by implying a separation between the sick and the healthy. Emphasizing health challenges the misconception that only certain individuals are susceptible to psychiatric issues.

The term 'mental unwellness' is highly stigmatizing as it suggests that 'the mentally ill' are completely different from 'people like us', rather than ordinary individuals who may be dealing with more severe emotional issues. The media often fuels misconceptions by portraying 'the mentally ill' as violent and dangerous, contrary to the real-life experiences of everyday people who have been affected by mental health problems, whether it be themselves, their family, friends, or colleagues. The term mental illness is commonly used by psychological and psychiatric services to emphasize the need for medical intervention. However, there are challenges in categorizing someone as mentally ill as there is no consensus on what distinguishes normal behavior from mental illness.

(Reader, David L. Rosenham pp. 70-78) The definition of unnatural behavior varies across different civilizations and societal groups within the same civilization, as well as in different societal situations. The term "mental illness" can be

misleading as it implies that all mental health issues are solely caused by medical or biological factors. However, in reality, most mental health problems arise from a combination of biological, societal, and personal factors. For example, while certain individuals may have a biological predisposition to experience depression, having strong social support during challenging times can decrease their likelihood of developing severe depression.

Moreover, individuals with an above-average familial risk of schizophrenia may experience a specific psychotic episode due to stressful life events and circumstances. Additionally, many individuals find that the existing methods of classifying illnesses do not closely align with their own personal experiences.

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