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Critically examine the view that the health inequalities suffered by the working class can be explained in terms of inappropriate behaviours and attitudes.

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Sociology of Health Critically examine the view that the health inequalities suffered by the working class can be explained in terms of inappropriate behaviours and attitudes. The well documented growth of inequality and wealth coupled with persistent inequalities in health found in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, have refocused attention on social class as a key determinate of health outcomes.1 Whilst the correlation between social class and health status has long been recognised by government organisations and academic communities, agreements as to the mechanisms driving this inequality are still lacking. The ageing process and our genetic inheritance do have important influences on our health, though health education awareness, access to health, leisure and social services and a range of other social factors have an impact on how effectively we can cope with them.2 This paper will give thought to the relationship between social class and inequalities in health and illnesses and whether there is a convincing link between the working class members of society not being equally served by the health care system. Whilst the focus will be on the exploration of the relation between health and social class, a discussion of this paper will also illustrate to four fundamental models of explanations, which have been put forward by sociologists, along their strengths and limitations, which the essay will go on to explain in relation to the title essay. There remain significant differences and inequalities in health and health care particularly with respect to class. ...read more.


heart disease and lung cancer, in research on Whitehall civil servants by Marmot (1884).13 They found that even with non-smokers the risk of these diseases was still strongly associated with the grade of job held, thereby pointing to the inability of this model to fully explain most health inequalities, as cultural and behavioural differences only accounted for approximately 25% of all social class inequalities.14 The artefact explanation, on the other hand suggests there are real problems of measurement and the statistics themselves may not be reliable indicators.15 This explanation suggests that class inequalities in health do not really exist; they only appear to exist because of the way class is constructed. There are four important points to consider when looking at this explanation: Firstly, the number of people in the lower class groups, especially unskilled manual workers, is in decline, so statistics on health inequalities among the poorer classes are based on fewer people. Secondly, the few workers reaming in lower-class jobs are still experiencing better health than in the past. Thirdly, these suggested figures tend to mask the higher levels of collapse disease among (especially) middle-class women - Alzheimer's - as women and middle-class people live longer, and finally, this explanation also criticises the classification of people by occupation.16 However, the authors of The Black Report argue that this explanation is not particularly convincing, as working class groups do not have as much contact that is often supposed, while poor health affects all manual workers, not just those classified as 'unskilled'. ...read more.


Many sociologists such as Whitehead (1987) argue that this theory does not substantiate the claim, as it is illustrated even when studies are able to control for factors like smoking and drinking, a sizeable proportion of the health gap still remains and factors related to the general living conditions and environment of the poor are indicated. All in all, the link between class and inequality seems evident as there is widespread agreement among sociologists using evidence from the research of Black, Acheson and The Joseph Rowntree Trust that structural and cultural factors are the main contributors to health differentials between classes, and that in reality these factors are interrelated, with the artefact and selectionist explanations playing some part in the reported differences. In this context there is also a growing number of evidence that material and structural factors, such as housing and income can in fact affect health. Most importantly, several studies have shown that unfavourable social conditions can limit the choice of an individuals life style and it is this set of studies which illustrates most clearly to many sociologists that behaviour and attitudes cannot be separated from its social environment. As social and economic life have major influences on the patterns of illness and death, many sociologists argue that as long as inequalities of wealth, income, education, occupation and social privilege continue, so will inequalities in health. It is for all these reasons that sociologists have generally given more emphasis to material, social and economic explanations rather than cultural ones for social class inequalities in health, as supposed to the title essay. ...read more.

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