Sociological Perspectives Essay Sample

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This assignment will be looking at the patterns of health and illness amongst the social groups of gender, age, ethnicity, location and social class, in order to identify if there are links between social groups and a population’s state of health/ill health.

Women are more likely to develop a cognitive health disorder compared to men. According to The Guardian (2013), ‘women are approximately 75% more likely than men to report recently having suffered from depression, and around 60% more likely to report an anxiety disorder.’ Arguably, this may be because women perform a ‘triple shift’- going to work in the day and coming home to perform domestic work & emotional work; listening to their partner talk about their day & offering them emotional support.

This in turn can lead them to becoming depressed, as they have to take on the problems of their partners, as well as their own problems, and feeling like there is no-one else to talk to. Additionally, these figures may be this high, due to women being more likely to go to the doctor when there is something wrong with their health, whereas men will put off going to the doctors. The graph below, taken from The Daily Mail, shows ‘The Percentage of Population Using Mental Health Medication’ in America, which supports the argument that women are more likely to develop a mental health disorder compared to men.

Those who are in a higher social status or social class, tend to live longer than those who are in the working class, or lower class. According to Equality Human Rights (2014), chapter 6 states that ‘Men in the highest socio-economic class can expect to live around 7 years longer than men in the lower groups. For women, the gap is the same.’ An argument for this set of statistics may be that those in a high social class can afford private healthcare, therefore having access to top medical treatment, whereas those who are in the lower social groups rely on the NHS, whose hospitals are facing staff shortages, higher mortality rates and longer waiting lists. Another explanation/argument for this could be that those in the lower social classes can’t afford fresh fruit/vegetables and aren’t educated on how to live a healthier lifestyle, therefore becoming susceptible to things such as cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure/high cholesterol etc. These findings are supported by a graph produced by the Office for National Statistics, shown below.

Furthermore, life span and disease differ between different ethnic groups. Equality Human Rights Chapter 6 (2014) states that ‘Black people are more likely to be homicide victims than are members of other ethnic groups. A disproportionate number of people who die following contact with the police are also Black. Infant mortality is higher than average among Black Caribbean and Pakistani groups, although, by contrast, it is lower than average among Bangladeshi groups.’ One argument for this, put forward by Genetics Home Reference (2015), states that ‘Some genetic disorders are more likely to occur among people who trace their ancestry to a particular geographic area. People in an ethnic group often share certain versions of their genes, which have been passed down from common ancestors. If one of these shared genes contains a disease-causing mutation, a particular genetic disorder may be more frequently seen in the group.’ Therefore, it is genetic factors that determine which ethnic groups are more susceptible to diseases or earlier mortality, compared to others.

This graph, taken from UK National Statistics (2010), supports the idea that some ethnic groups are more likely to be exposed to illness and disease than others, as it shows that around 15% of those of Pakistani heritage reported ill health, whereas only 6% of the Chinese population within the UK reported being ‘ill’. As a nation, the elderly in the UK are living longer, due to advances in medical treatment and equipment. However, the elderly are still more susceptible to developing certain diseases and illnesses compared to younger generations.

According to the Alzheimer’s Organisation website (2015), their statistics show that by 2015, there will be 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK, and that 40,000 of those people are younger people. According to the NHS (2013), Alzheimer’s or Dementia is caused by damage to the brain, leading to brain cells dying and not being replaced or re-created. Although we could say that this is a direct link to biological stagnation due to age, our statistic shows that even younger generations can develop dementia. Causes of this may be depression (perhaps from not being employed, or being employed and having a lot of bills to pay, falling into debt etc.), brain tumours and long-term alcohol abuse can also contribute to people to develop dementia, (NHS, 2013).

This graph, seen online on Hub Pages, (2013) shows the growing cases in people who are developing dementia. Although it has been discussed that younger people can develop dementia, this graph shows that the highest proportion of people who have dementia are between the ages of 65 and 85, therefore showing that elderly people are more susceptible to developing dementia, compared to younger people.

In conclusion, this assignment shows that there is a clear correlation between different social groups and how susceptible they are to developing illnesses compared to others.

Additionally, location can impact on health, illness and lifespan. Some countries may have a higher or lower lifespan for their population compared to other places. For example, Equality Human Rights, Chapter 6 (2014), ‘There are differences in life expectancy between different parts of Britain. Life expectancy in Scotland ranges from 3 years lower than in England and 2 years lower than Wales. Overall, more people die early in Scotland than in any other western European country.’ According to The Daily Mail (2012), the reason for this is that Scotland has low employment rates, and researchers state that ‘decades of bad political decisions’ are also to blame for Scotland’s high mortality rate. Furthermore, the article further argues that there isn’t a single cause for the high mortality rate; there are multiple causes. These causes include:’ migration, genetics, individual values, substance abuse, climate, abuse, deindustrialisation and political attack.’

This graph, taken from Poverty Org, (2015) shows that premature deaths in both sexes are remarkably higher in Scotland compares to elsewhere in the UL, therefore backing up the point made earlier.

In conclusion, this assignment shows that there is a clear correlation between different social groups and how susceptible they are to developing illnesses compared to others.

This assignment aims to link sociological perspectives to statistics gathered about each social group seen in P3, and seeing whether perspectives support or do not support these facts and figures.

Statistics produced from The Guardian (2013) shows that ‘women are approximately 75% more likely than men to report recently having suffered from depression, and around 60% more likely to report an anxiety disorder.’ Feminists argue that society is patriarchal- it is run by men for men, which leads to the oppression of women, in the home and in employment. There are three ‘subtypes’ to Feminism: 1. The first is Marxist Feminism, which argues that working class women are oppressed by the bourgeoisie, as well as men. 2. The second type is Radical Feminism, who claim that men control all aspects of a woman’s life, as society and the family structure is patriarchal and therefore forces women into becoming housewives and mothers. Radical Feminists are more likely to fight oppression by entering gay relationships and enforcing ‘baby bans’ until there is equality. 3. The third is Liberal Feminism, who acknowledge that there has been a positive change in reaching equality, due to acts such as The Equal Pay Act (1975), The Sexual Discrimination Act (1970) and being given Voting Rights in the 1920’s.

Therefore, Feminism would support this statistic, as women would become depressed if they had no control over their finances, completing her duties as an employee, wife, mother, cook, cleaner etc. every day, compared to her husband who would solely perform his ‘breadwinner’ role. This shows that women have a lot of responsibilities placed on them, mainly through the patriarchal societal structure and gender roles, consequently showing they are oppressed by men. (Class notes 2015 and AS Sociology notes, 2013).

Marxism is a whole argues that proletariats (the working class) are oppressed by the bourgeoisie (upper class) because they have a lower economic status and the bourgeoisie have the Government on their side, as they control the workforces. Consequently, Marxists would not support this argument, as women produce healthy workers by cooking for them, who are then exploited by the bourgeoisie. Therefore, they would argue that because proletariat men are exploited by the bourgeoisie and don’t have their wants met (such as an increase in wage), they would be more likely to suffer from depression & stress, compared to women who only perform domestic and caring roles. (AS Sociology notes, 2013).

Statistics put forward by Equality Human Rights (2014), states that ‘Men in the highest socio-economic class can expect to live around 7 years longer than men in the lower groups. For women, the gap is the same.’ The New Right Theory, used by politicians to suggest how society should be run, argues that individuals should take and accept responsibility to keep themselves healthy and that we should pay for ourselves. They further argue that private healthcare is better, as it ensures people receive high quality treatment, and that benefits only produces dependence on the Government to sort out people’s issues, such as healthcare, when it has nothing to do with the state. However, they do acknowledge that individuals who are in poverty through no fault of their own are deserving of healthcare.’

Therefore, it can be argued that New Right theorists would support the statement, as those who don’t rely on Government expenditure and are not in poverty can afford higher quality treatment for healthcare, which ensures that they live a longer and healthier life, compared to someone who is on benefits and who rely on the NHS. Collectivism, another political view, argues that we should share the responsibility of health and that we should be responsible for providing healthcare to all, through shared responsibilities and values, e.g. taxes that go towards the NHS to provide proper healthcare. Therefore, they wouldn’t support this statement, as they would argue that everyone should be given fair and good treatment, regardless of whether they are in poverty, in employment etc. (Class notes, 2015).

In conclusion, this assignment looks at the approach sociological perspectives take towards facts, figures and statistics put forward by the Office for National Statistics and gives different viewpoints and opinions.

This assignment will look at The Black Report of 1980 and its 4 explanations in relation to sociological explanations on health and illness. According to Sociology in Nursing and Healthcare, written by Hannah Cooke and Susan Philpin, the Black Report of 1980 concluded that the working/lower class experienced a lower standard of health throughout their lives, even with the introduction of health and welfare reforms. The US National Library of Medicine (2015) further argues that health inequalities faced by those in a lower social status was widened by the introduction of NHS, rather than diminished. The Black Report however, contradicts itself here, as the US National Library of Medicine (2015) argued that the report identified that these inequalities were not all attributable to the NHS failings, but rather were attributed to poor housing, poverty, education, housing, diet & conditions of work. Therefore, this report aimed to put measures in place in order to combat these inequalities, for example free education, National Minimum Wage etc.

The report consists of four explanations; the artefact explanation, the social selection explanation, the behavioural explanation and the materialistic explanation. According to the Sociology of Health and Illness (2008), the artefact explanation looks at how social class and health are measured as variables and concludes that the relationship between these variables tells us nothing about the causes of disease. In general, this explanation argues that errors can be made. Sociology of Health and Illness (2008) goes onto define natural/selection as health influencing an individual’s chances of making their way up on the social scale and having social mobility. This explanation identifies that there is a connection between social class and health, with social class being the dependent variable. The cultural/behavioural explanation contrasts with the natural selection explanation, according to Sociology of Health and Illness (2008), as it acknowledges that there is a relationship between social class and health, but health is the dependent variable.

The article from Sociology of Health and Illness then goes onto state that this explanation argued that gradients in health are the results of differences in social class behaviours, e.g. consumption of harmful commodities such as fast food, cigarettes, alcohol etc. lack of exercise and the differences in healthcare treatments. Therefore as a whole, this explanation argues that lifestyle influences an individual’s health status. The fourth and final explanation listed under the Black Report of 1980 is the materialistic explanation. The article taken from the Sociology of Health and Illness (2008) describes this approach as being similar to the cultural/behavioural explanation, as they both acknowledge the relationship between social class and health with health being the dependent variable, but this last approach is concerned with how social structures impact on health, and how differences predetermined by production and consumption is the main reason for health inequalities between social classes.

We can apply these explanations to statistics, in order to see which would agree or support the statistic, and which would disagree or not support the statistic.

For example, if we use the statistic that states that ‘women are approximately 75% more likely than men to report recently having suffered from depression, and around 60% more likely to report an anxiety disorder’, we are able to apply these four explanations. The artefact explanation would disagree with the statistic, as it would argue that errors can be made whilst gathering the research to compile the statistics. This can be done if the researcher asks a larger proportion of women than men about their mental health status, or if the sample population consisted of more women than men. However, the artefact explanation could also be in favour of the statistic, as men could lie about the state of their mental health, as there is stigma still attached to mental illness and problems. When it comes to the natural/social selection approach, it can be argued that it is an unfair approach to use when analysing this statistic, as mental health issues and illness can develop through traumatic experiences, or even simpler things such as the seasons and daylight. (Teens Health Organisation 2014).

If we take the third approach, the behavioural approach, it would agree with the statistic on the basis that lifestyle can affect mental health, as unexpected life events such as bereavement, alcohol/drug addiction, becoming unemployed etc. can all contribute towards an individual developing depression. However, this approach would not fully agree with the statistic, as it is based on lifestyle and social class affecting an individual’s health, rather than their sex determining who is more likely to develop an anxiety disorder or depression. Finally, the materialistic approach would support the statistic, as there might not be as many resources available to women to help overcome depression and anxiety as there is for men. However, this approach could also argue that there aren’t a lot of resources for men to feel comfortable with talking about mental disorders.

According to Medical News (2011), women are 3 times more likely to go to the doctors on a regular basis than men. Therefore, this can imply that men don’t feel comfortable talking to doctors about health issues and may feel embarrassed if they do, potentially causing them to avoid talking about their mental health problems, which consequently would affect any statistics collected. Another statistic we can apply these explanations to relates to social class- ‘Men in the highest socio-economic class can expect to live around 7 years longer than men in the lower groups. For women, the gap is the same.’ The artefact explanation would be unfair to use to analyse this statistic, as it argues that the relationship between the variables of social class and health do not say anything about how illness is developed (Sociology of Health and Illness, 2008) and does not take life span into consideration, therefore making it unsuitable to support this statistic.

The natural/social selection approach would support this statistic, as it argues that health influences social mobility- therefore if someone is born into poverty and are more exposed to disease, they cannot move up the social scale and are not open to better healthcare opportunities and treatments, leading to premature death. Whereas if someone who was born into a wealthy family high on the social scale and can afford private medical treatment, they are more likely to live longer. The behavioural approach would also support this statement, as those who are in poverty and unemployment will opt for cheaper foods (e.g. processed/frozen foods), may fall into depression and are more exposed to things such as alcoholism, cigarettes , drugs etc. all of which lead to illnesses that can shorten life span, whereas those who are in a higher social class can afford to live healthily, can pay regularly to use resources such as gyms/swimming pools/dance classes etc. to keep fit and therefore extend their lifespan.

Finally, the materialistic explanation would not support this statistic, as it would argue there are resources put into place to help combat issues faced by those of a lower social class, such as the NHS, food banks, benefits, rehabilitation schemes etc. which in turn can be used to help individuals who are part of the lower class to overcome the things that can shorten their lifespan and aim towards extending it. In conclusion, these approaches vary on how supportive they are regarding the nature of each statistic brought forward, although they all come from The Black Report of 1980. These explanations allow the measures put forward by the report to be analysed from 4 different viewpoints and can help researches to determine the accuracy of statistics.

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