The health of an individual and community is affected by many factors, according to WHO, such as the living situation, state of the environment, education and income, and our relationship with family and friends (WHO, 2008). Sociology helps in identifying abnormalities that may seem very normal. Society was always supported by social health institutes in providing the society with health and family care, education etc. Many approaches of sociology were given by scholars, such as functionalist perspective by Earliest, Durkheim and Parsons; and Conflict and critical perspective by Karl Max. The functionalist perspective allows the sick person to be free from social burden, have the right to get the care and is not responsible for their condition. Although, it was obliged on them to try to get well and cooperate with the medical staff. Conflict and critical perspective focus on social inequality, health disparity and historical materialism. The political-economic perspective integrates conflicts, feminist, anti-racist and intersectional approaches. The commodification of health is one of the root causes of this inequality. The concept of neoliberalism is also creating hindrance in providing access to optimum health care service at a reasonable cost for every section of society. The discrimination and marginalisation of females in providing health care gave rise to feminist standpoint theory (Smith, 1987).
There are two models of medicines; biomedical and biopsychosocial. Biomedical focuses on mind and body, which can be repaired with the help of technology. Biopsychosocial focuses on social and psychological consequences of health and management of health care.
The process of medicalization includes medical study, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. Some illnesses are considered to be doubtful by medical professionals. Diseases like chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia may be true illnesses or sometimes just in the patient’s head. This kind of illness is known as culturally bound illness. When a certain illness is limited to a particular culture, it is known as a culture-bound syndrome. Anorexia is an example of a cultural bound syndrome. According to research done by Becker (2004) on women in Fiji, revealed that women who watched television programs and advertisements from western culture become more conscious about their bodies and alter their eating habits in order to imitate the thin body they watched on television.
Stigmatization and cultural attitude towards illness can be understood by examples. Obesity is an example of a socially constructed illness. It may occur due to cultural habits and attitudes. Many people blame obese people for their overweight. Christianity considers “gluttony” as sin (Barry et al, 2008). People’s attitude towards HIV/AIDS positive person shows illness influenced social behaviour.
Ethnomedicine is the comparative study of ideas from different cultures about healing, wellness and illness. Many cultural medical practices acupuncture scientifically found to be effective in the healing process (George, 1998). Personal ethno-etiologist consider illness to be the result of the intervention of witches, ghosts or other non-human evil spirits. According to the ethnic-etiologic view, illness is the result of punishment or aggression directed towards an individual purposefully (Foster, 1976).
The sociocultural factors influencing illness are the course of the illness, response towards the disease, definition of disorder, and how it is treated. The diagnostic and statistical manual (DSM) of mental disorders sets standards and protocols for diagnosis and recording of treatment for mental disorders. The symptoms of various psychological and mental disorder are listed in DSM. Some of the neurodevelopment disorders that are listed in DSM-5 are intellectual disability, communication disorder, autism spectrum disorder, hyperactivity disorder, motor disorder, catatonia, bipolar disorder, depressive disorder, anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and many others.
The foundation of sociology was laid by Greeks who differentiate between nature and human intervention of the law. The emergence of scientific thoughts and democracy started in the 16th and 17th centuries. From the 18th century industrial revolution emphasised scientific thought and understanding of the working of worldly processes. The 19th century witnessed the dramatic change from feudalism to capitalism, relocating from rural areas to urban areas and also avoiding the social problems arising from it. Auguste Comte coined the term positive science in the 19th century, which focused on finding laws and patterns for the social world by scientific approach; observation, experimentation, and comparison. Max Weber in the 20th century criticised positivism and founded interpretive sociology.
The key research methodologies used in sociology are quantitative and qualitative analysis. It is important to understand the approaches for these methods. Ethnography is one such approach. The research immerses themselves into the culture they are enquiring for, to understand the lifestyle, thinking and behaviour. The researchers aim to find a detailed narrative of their study. Ethnography often involves observation of not just the entire behaviour but also the cause of the behaviour (Geertz, 1977). However, qualitative methods to gather data in ethnography may be ethical or unethical. There are many types of observation that can be done such as; complete observation when participants are not informed they are observed and no interaction with participants; observer as participants where participants are aware that they are been observed and very less interaction takes place; participants as an observer when participants know the researchers and follow their instructions although the researcher is not part of the group; and complete observation where research is participating in the observation but is unknown to the participants.
Research ethics plays a crucial role in maintaining the dignity and authenticity of the research. Six general principles of ethics of research are; integrity, professional competence, respect for people’s diversity, right and dignity, scientific and professional responsibility, human rights and social responsibility. The ethics followed at different levels such as; micro-level- rights of individual participants; meso level- specific to their organisation or profession; macro-level- larger social concern; and global level. In history, violation of ethics of research caused the deaths of thousands or millions of participants. For example, experiments for smallpox vaccine (the late 1700s), WWII experiments (mid-1900s), malnutrition experiments in Canada on aboriginal children and adults (1940s to early 1950s) and many others. Sometimes the outcomes of this violation become a catastrophe that cannot be justified at any level. Therefore, the first and foremost priority of any researcher must be abiding by the ethics of research.
Barry, C. L., Brescoll, V. L., Brownell, K. D., & Schlesinger, M. (2009). Obesity metaphors: how beliefs about the causes of obesity affect support for public policy. The Milbank Quarterly, 87(1), 7-47.
Foster, G. M. (1976). Disease Etiologies in Non-Western Medical System. American Anthropologist, (78), no. 4: 775
Geertz, C. (1977). Thick description: Towards an interpretive theory of culture. In The Interpretive of Culture: Selected Essays (pp. 3-30). New York, NY: Basic Books.
Lewith, G. T. (1998). Acupuncture: Its Place in Western Medical Science. United Kingdom: Merlin Press.
Smith, D. E. (1987). The everyday world as problematic: A feminist sociology. University of Toronto Press.
World Health Organisation. (2008). Closing the gap in a generation: Health equity through action on the social determinants of the health. Geneva: World Health Organisation.Order Now