The Social Construction Of Illness

1399 WordsNov 24, 20146 Pages
Introduction History shows that our understanding of health and illness is variable. The way that a society views and interprets an illness deviates from the raw, natural interpretation made by biologists and physicians. It is believed that illness, a social phenomenon, is created out of disease, a biological phenomenon, through social construction. Social construction of illness emphasizes that the meaning of illness develops through interaction in a social context. While the medical model assumes that illness is invariant in time and place, social construction suggests that cultural and social systems shape the meaning and experience of illness. In short, illness has more than just a simple presence in nature. Illness is multifaceted, with a social aspect that exists independent of its medical nature. In his book, Profession of Medicine, Eliot Friedson introduced an important piece of groundwork for the social construction of illness. He provided an example for how an illness exerts social consequences on an individual, independent of its biological effects. He wrote that a physician changes the behavior of an individual when he or she diagnoses him or her with an illness. The sick individual has the disease prior to the diagnosis, but it is the diagnosis that labels the individual as “ill.” The diagnosis groups the signs and symptoms of the individual into an illness. From there on out, the individual is perceived by society as “ill.” The association
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