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Discuss ways in which sociologists have approached study of gender and health?

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Introduction

Discuss ways in which sociologists have approached study of gender and health Health is a broad issue today, especially as the definition of health is arguable. For example, the medical model describes health as the absence of disease, while the world health organization explains that health is 'not merely the absence of disease and infirmity, but complete physical, mental and social well being." Regardeless of the definition however, there are various factors that affect health and a major one of these is gender. Women tend to live longer than men, as the average female life expectancy is 81, while for men it is 76. However, women are more likely to visit the doctor, take more medication and suffer from various conditions. One of these conditions is stress and many feminists have argued that women suffer due to the triple shift: being responsible for paid work, housework/childcare and emotional family issues. This can also cause them to have depression and anxiety, because they are doing too much, such as raising young children. An increase in geographical mobility can make the situation worse, as many mothers don't have the support of the extended family, which can result in both physical and mental health problems. ...read more.

Middle

Simulatenously, looking after a pre- school child and working part time gives women more time to visit the doctor, whereas men who usually have full time jobs may have less time, as most surgeries are open for normal working hours. Also doctors may diagnose women due to sexist views, as they could see women as weak and in need of medical help, while being less inclined to suggest treatment for men. The Functionalist Parsons argues that if a person is ill they have 2 rights: don't have to go to work or do domestic duties and needs to be cared for, while not being blamed for their illness. The ill person also has 2 obligations: to get better as soon as possible and not prolong illness to avoid work/ school, as well as taking medicine and treatments. His idea of health means that the process of being sick can be managed successfully by society and stigmatisation is seen as vital to ensure people take as little time off as possible to maintain a healthy society. One criticism of this viewpoint though is that not everyone who becomes ill adopts a sick role and some may not go to the doctor. ...read more.

Conclusion

However, Marxist feminists' belief that capitalism is the reason for the disadvantages of women's health also is another idea to consider, as it claims that the bourgeois make money from their health through diet programmes for instance. However, it could be argued that men also have pressure to diet and stay looking younger. The feminist viewpoint overall can be undermined, as women tend to live longer than men. For example, men having more dangerous jobs could be seen as unfair, as women may be protected from hazardous jobs in the army or navy for example. Simultaneously though, women may feel they are capable of these careers and that lack of these job opportunities is unfair. Furthermore, as women tend to look after children and may suffer from the triple shift, they may have emotional health problems. This again Reverts back to the definition of health, as some might argue that health is just a lack of disease. However, overall women visiting the doctor more often than men is an important aspect of gender and health. This is because socialisation for instance has meant women may feel more able to discuss medical problems openly and therefore get treatment for a medical condition, while men may be too embarassed. Also as women usually have more time to visit the doctors, they may become cured quicker. ...read more.

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