Sociology of Health

The social perspective in sociology of health explains the society’s view concerning health. It is a discipline that describes an illness using social factors present in daily activities of life. Sociologists show how wellness and disease, the treatment and explanation of illness production in a social organization can be understood differently from a medical perspective of nature, biology, and lifestyle in an attempt of explaining sickness (Bahar, 2013). It is a significant facet of interpreting biological information that shows the creation of health and disease in a political, social, and cultural environment. In describing various social phenomena, sociologists examine how social life impacts morbidity and mortality rates and how it alternatively influences the society.
Medical sociology uses sociological theory to explain the relationship between social factors and health to define this issue and its systems (Amzat & Razum, 2014). Amzat and Razum (2014) demonstrate that it tends to separate nature from the community. It means that it illustrates how scientific knowledge mediates social relations.

Moreover, medical sociology shows how the technical realm of medical practice is inconsistent with social processes in nature. It is a claim of understanding constructivism through an objective in natural science. Various studies identify the inconsistencies between current medical practice and social relations. Therefore, this paper will answer the questions in addressing some aspects of health and illness using the theories governing sociology.

The Sick Role and Definition of Health and Disease

According to Kramer, Khan, and Kraas (2011), the World Health Organization defines health as an everyday life resource for survival. This concept emphasizes social and personal aspects of individuals in realizing ambitions and satisfaction of desires for the purpose of coping with the environment. It is an improvement of the previous definition. It states that it is the state of completeness of the physical, social and mental wellbeing and not merely the absence of a disease or illness (Bahar, 2013; Bircher, 2005). The medical aspect of sociology views health as the absence of sickness using the cause-effect relationship. The social model that aims at prevention emphasizes the importance of addressing the origins of disease with the link to societal factors and not abnormal functions.

The disease, on the other hand, is a state of social dysfunction, in which an individual is not able to perform the ascribed roles in the society. The social model explains the origin of illness from the imbalance of social factors such as social structures and categories (Rogers, 2011). Rogers (2011) argues that sickness is a kind of rest when one is free of the everyday burden. It is a break off from social life, from the surrounding and social obligations (Amzat & Razum, 2014). The medical model explains that disease is a result of abnormal body systems. It is a disruption of the organism’s engine through a biological cause being a description of etiology.

The sick role phenomena are some rights and commitments that enclose illness to influence the behavior of doctors and patients (Amzat & Razum, 2014). According to Amzat and Razum (2014), Parsons’ functionalist account of the sick function lays out the parts, responsibilities, and authorities of patients and practitioners based on some assumptions of the consensus being beneficial to the two parties. The rights include the legitimacy of withdrawal from a range of normal duties such as the paid work of a doctor. It adds that a person cannot get well without an intervention of a medical professional. A physician, therefore, has to provide the competent and efficient services for the ill individual. On accomplishing these issues, people have a social duty of getting well soon. It is the statutory grant to accessing the sick role. The state of neutrality characterizes this relationship (Rogers, 2011). In return for compliance, the patient gets medical care through the doctor’s right to diagnose, examine, and treat. The example occurs when a patient comes to hospital and cooperates with the physician during the medical examination till the very treatment. Sick people regard a disease as the issue that makes one seek medical help granting the access to the sick role. The patient’s compliance guarantees medical care in which both parties benefit on a neutral ground.

The Doctor/Patient Relationship

According to Goold and Lipkin (1999), the doctor-patient relationship is essential in care. It forms the medium of data gathering, making diagnoses and plans, compliance achievement, healing and core in patient support and activation. In the health care system, the doctor-patient relationship is the market’s practicality of satisfaction, in which the patient makes some decisions on whether to stay with the particular service or not (Goold & Lipkin, 1999). The connection is an important facet of the healthcare industry in the delivery of quality health care.

Goold and Lipkin (1999) describe the communication between doctors and their patients as a whole science incorporating philosophy and sociological aspects in system encounters guiding decision making. It is an area of modern sociology in the medical field that influences medical practitioners to be more effective and efficient in care delivery. Cockerham (2007) describes that this cooperation is completely dependent on Durkheim theory of social division in a society. It focuses on the cohesion for societal survival. Cockerham (2007) adds that the relationship is an intersection of two personality systems, in which actors are taking account of each other basing on the mutual need of gratification of rewards and expectations. On the contrary, Marxism states that the division of labor should be eliminated to direct an individual and the social wrong doings are created by such separation.
The doctor-patient relationship views each component to be equally important. Each entity strives to fulfill the needs of the other one for being in a perfect harmony (Cockerham, 2007). While the sick individual provides information, the medical practitioner, on the other hand, uses the data to benefit the patient. Without this the doctor cannot function in the system of labor division. Rodgers (2011) identifies various factors affecting the proper functioning of this dependency. It includes the doctor’s courtesy level to view the patient as equally important with respect and attention to personal comfort, the individual’s interests, the physician’s competency skills, trust and motivational factors such as rewards (Rogers, 2011). For this relationship to be decisive such attributes need to be addressed to ensure both the medical practitioner and the sick person are at equilibrium.

The Ways in Which the Medical Professional Exercises Social Control3

According to Barry and Yuill (2011), social control is the monitoring and regulation of individual’s thoughts, feelings, and appearance in social systems. The accomplishment is executed through socialization, in which people identify the social system governed by social norms and values thereby living by and taking part in the maintenance of regulations and merits. The Marxist views on the division of labor and its effects on individuals and social relations were particularly apt in describing social control (Barry & Yuill, 2011). Marxism states that one class rises by controlling the means of production to impose the separation of work upon those ones in their execution, gathering the necessary wealth and power in the society. The other inferior class alienates itself by an ever-increasing division of labor to struggle for survival. Not much analysis is required to identify where the physician fits. In this case, the patient enters the relationship in fear and subservience concerning the doctor who aids in compliance.

Medical professionals, who own the means of production, work to control the population. For instance, physicians identify etiology of disease using their knowledge. They make some critical decisions in medicine that influence people’s behavior and lifestyle in the society (Goold & Lipkin, 1999). They also determine the medical model acknowledging that illness is caused by biological factors rather than social ones. This school of thought emphasizes the need for therapeutic medicine other than inequalities resulting from societal disparities. The healing form of medical practice veils the causes of illness to ascertain Marxist views as a contemporary health reform perpetuating some imbalance in the community (Durkheim, 2014). It explains why the medical professional is labeled to promoting an individualistic view of responsibility for disease and the production of profit through the manufacture of medicine for therapeutic purposes. Social control makes the doctor superior in the medical profession.

Evaluation of the Medical Profession’s Contribution of Ill-Health

According to the World Medical Association (WMA) (2016), the medical profession has created a significant impact on ill-health. Instead of providing the solution through social autonomy, it has used it to create a wide gap between social controls. It influences the community’s determinants of health being the factors affecting the quality of life. The medical profession tends to pick up some pieces and repair the damage caused by the disease (WMA, 2016). Taking this course is not suitable because social attributes such as the environment and culture are not tackled yet. They are the magnitude of all health inequalities leading to ill-health. Some time ago, the doctor’s role and the part of other healthcare professionals has been the treatment of the sick individual. To a lesser degree, medical practitioners were dealing with personal exposures to disease-causing agents such as obesity, use of alcohol, and smoking (Bahar, 2013). The failure of integrating proximate causes is the promotion of ill health in the medical profession.

The medical professionals that hold a high-status quo in the society need to debate as well as share medical knowledge and skills vital in preventing disease causes (WMA, 2016). They should emulate with the organizations such as the World Health Organization that incorporates social determinants in addressing health issues. The WMA (2016) argues that this aspect does not only focus on individual behavior but seeks to address premature and ill-health. It occurs throughout the life course, the structural living and working conditions promoting weakliness, as well as the social gradient issues such as the social and economic hierarchy (Bahar, 2013). The medical practitioners’ emphasis on instructional programs is required to root out the causes of disease by imparting medical knowledge. This knowing demonstrates the effects of abnormal behavior. The society’s lack of knowledge on the factors disrupting social ecology is a failure of the medical profession in promoting health.

The Political Economy of the Health Industry

The political economy of health refers to a body of analysis and perspective on the health policy. It finds out about the conditions impacting the population health and health service development within the broad macroeconomic and political contexts (Legge, n. d. para. 1). The complex relationship between the economic development and health evolution will be analyzed altogether.

The political economy recognizes the interplay between politics and economics, which is a Marxist view of growth through productivity in many different dynamics (Marmot & Wilkinson, 2005). Marx (2010) argues that in accessing capital and relevant technology, workers are destined to excess. It will earn more in the market leading to better health and investment to maintain its efficient dynamics. This economic dynamics triggers the improved living conditions, increased resources for health, and better health services. The growth in the political economy is defined by the surge in productivity associated with health care that improves individual’s living standards (Legge, n. d. para. 6). Legge (n. d.) determines the political conditions defining the growth to include policies that influence health care, relevant resources improving health care, and the economic power. Economic activity with the ability to resource mobilization amid financial constraints offers the equality of services. It produces sustainably and consolidates the workforce that is a perfect definition of growth in healthcare.

Another aspect of performance is health improvement that contributes to economic growth (Szreter & Woolcock, 2004). It is a form of an increase in labor productivity. The healthy workforce with low mortality and morbidity rates as well as high expectancy rates requires little resources channeled to health care. These ones would, otherwise, be used in health care and directed to other areas of economy. The use of such remedies in improving the nation’s health is a key to the economic growth.

It evidences that the health enhancement of people is an exchange for economic development. Empowering individuals and improving their environments pays the price for economic growth (Legge, n. d., para. 8). This concept shows the importance of valuing the health of citizens. The reason is that health is a transformation to wealth (Woodward, 2005). The factors such as food, hunger, farming, and poverty influence the political economy in healthcare. Privatization, practical irreversibility of GATS, and looming over-production in the economic development if not well addressed can lead to stagnation and health damage. In the case of economic recession in a chaotic political economy, the attributes can lead to adverse outcomes in the political dynamics. Such ones affect health care directly.


In understanding the interplay of sociology and medicine, various aspects are considered in explaining social phenomena. For instance, while Marx’s theory emphasizes on social control in productivity, other theorists explain the importance of neutrality in individual relationships. Being varied, both of them describe some events happenings in the society. In conclusion one should note that this paper has socially defined health and illness to explore the concept of the sick role. In this part, the patient and the doctor are both the actors. In this play, medical practitioners choose for the individual compliance. Meanwhile the patient needs a quick recovery to get back to social roles in the community. Though the majority of scholars view this relationship on neutral grounds, Marx sees the superiority of the doctor in his profession. It has addressed the medical occupation’s contribution to ill-health, highlighting the shortcomings leading to weakliness. This superiority has finally analyzed the factors influencing the political economy in health care. Although the medical profession is not in the full acceptance of social theories explaining health, more study needs to be conducted connecting both parts. This paper has addressed various questions involving health and illness using the medical and sociology disciplines.