Health as a Social Construction

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Health as a Social Construction

In my essay, I aim to find out why social construction affects the

health of our society. Ill health may be defined as 'a bodily or

mental state that is deemed undesirable'. This means that health is

the condition of the body both physically and mentally.

Social construction of health refers to the way health varies from one

society to another. Social construction refers to the statistics like

the morbidity and mortality rate of our society. Our gender, class,

ethnicity, religion and even education construct society, these all

determine our experience of reality.

An example of how sociologists have tried to deconstruct health in

society is looking at the theories of sociologists like Leslie (1980).

She developed the '3 Fold model of Health'. She researched and

developed her concept by looking at health in different

countries/cultures. The first model, 'Mechanistic Model', is a concept

identifying the body as a machine and was applied to the Western


The 'Bio Medical Model' is also linked with the mechanistic model,

where illness is seen as a nuisance and causes the 'machine' to break

down and even stop working completely. Through Helman's study we can

see that although we know how we catch a cold i.e. germs, lay

perceptions still exist despite the Bio Medical model. Helman's study

demonstrates that variations of health still exist within our society.

Two types of illnesses related to this are chronic illness

(lasting/terminal) and acute illness (minor e.g. the flu). Criticism

of the mechanistic model is that it is slightly simplistic and may not

always apply because the body cannot always be repaired.

The second model is the 'Naturalistic Model', which refers to the

notion of equilibrium. In order for the body to remain healthy, there

must be a balance. Chinese medicine relies greatly on this notion i.e.

Yin (cold) and Yang (hot). This notion is often used in alternative


The third model is the 'Ethical Model' which states that illness is

sent by a divine force, like a punishment for the persons wrong doings
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