Material Type:
Community College / Lower Division
Ohio Open Ed Collaborative
  • Oss0212
  • Sociology
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial
    Media Formats:

    Define health and illness from a sociological perspective with attention to medicalization and the social construction of illness


    OER Text Materials 

    Sociology: Understanding and Changing the Social World, Section: 18.1
    Chapter 18 begins with a great illustration of how social class impacts health. Section 1 then begins by defining health and medicine. A sociological perspective on health is provided, which includes an introduction to the importance of social location as well as social structure in determining the health of individuals and health outcomes within societies. This section, while brief, provides a fine overview of the sociological perspective on health and is appropriate for an introduction to sociology course. The three major sociological perspectives are applied to health in a clear and concise way. Key sociological concepts, such as Parson’s sick role, are introduced throughout the theory section. There is a lack of material on the social construction of health and illness. Supplemental material should address this topic as it is important to understanding health from a sociological perspective. Additionally, in the conflict theory portion of section 1, there is a very brief discussion of medicalization. Instructors interested in discussing this topic should consider supplementing with other resources.

    Supplementary Material (Videos and Reading)

    1. The Society Pages: "Who Gets Special Education"
      A great story on special education that provides an overview of treatment toward students with disabilities. It could be used to discuss medicalization.
    2. How is Mental Illness Diagnosed? (video)
      A short (2.25 min.) video of an interview with Thomas Szasz’s in which he discusses how mental illness is diagnosed. Would be a great start for a discussion on mental illness.
    3. “#Medicated and Mighty: The Social Construction of Stigmatized Illness" – The Society Pages
      This article briefly discussed the social construction of illness and the role of patient narratives and claimsmakers in constructing illness. The authors use Erin Jones, a blogger, post and accompanying hashtag, Medicatedandmighty, to illustrate how patients can be active in shaping the biomedical and cultural understandings of disease.
    4. “How Obesity Became a Disease” – The Atlantic
      Excellent 2015 article that links the idea of obesity as a disease to weight loss as an industry. A great illustration of a conflict theory perspective on disease.