DescriptionThe second edition of Mildred Blaxter's successful and highly respected book offers a comprehensive and engaging introduction to the key debates surrounding the concept of health today. It discusses how health is defined, constructed, experienced and acted out in contemporary developed societies, drawing on a range of empirical data from the USA, Britain, France, and many other countries.
The new edition has been thoroughly revised and updated, with new material added on health and identity, the "new genetics", the sociology of the body, and the formation of health capital throughout the life course. The topic is the concept of health, rather than the more usual emphasis on illness and health-care systems. Special emphasis is given to the lay perspective to show how people themselves think about and experience health. Blaxter guides students through all the relevant conceptual models of the relationship of health to the structure of society, from inequality in health to the ideas of the risk society, the ‘socio-biological translation’ and the contribution of health to social capital. The book concludes with a comprehensively revised and thought-provoking discussion of the impact of new technology, the boundaries between life and death, modern commodification of health, technological transformations of the body and theories of evolutionary biology.
Health is an invaluable textbook for students of medicine and other health professions as well as those studying sociology, health sciences and health promotion.
1. How is health defined?
Health as the absence of illness.
Disease as deviance.
Health as balance or homeostasis.
Health as function.
Health as state or status.
The biomedical model.
The social model.
Health, disease, illness and sickness.
How is health measured?
2. How is health constructed?
Health as social construction.
Constructions of history.
Constructions of culture.
Constructivism and feminism.
Illness, labelling and stigma.
Constructions of mental illness.
Constructions of disability.
The critique of relativism.
Medicalisation and the constructions of medical practice.
3. How is health embodied and experienced?
Lay definitions of health.
Social representations of health.
Concepts of the causes of health and illness.
Health histories and subjective health capital.
Limitations of narrative.
The search for meaning.
Health as moral discourse and metaphor.
Responsibility for health.
4. How is health enacted?
The rise and fall of 'illness behaviour'.
Person to patient: help-seeking behaviour.
The patient role.
Control and concordance.
Structure/agency: health as cultural consumption.
Structure/agency: health as self-governance.
5. How is health related to social systems?
A functional relationship.
Responses to functionalism.
Medicine and society.
Health, economic development and social organization.
The downside of economic development.
The concept of inequality in health.
The nature and extent of inequalities.
The causes of inequality.
The socio-biologic translation.
6. Contemporary change in the meaning of health.
Technology and postmodernity.
Changing boundaries between ill and not-ill.
Changing boundaries of life and death.
Changing boundaries between self and not-self.
Changing boundaries between therapy and enhancement.
Information technologies and medical practice.
Changing attitudes to health and medicine.
New technologies and the risk society.
Mike Bury, Royal Holloway, University of London
"Updated and with new material, this book provides a fascinating insight into the phenomenon of health and how it is defined, constructed, expressed and experienced. Written in a clear and engaging style, it is an indispensable resource for students and researchers in the health and social sciences."
Ellen Annandale, University of Leicester
"This fine book takes sociological perspectives of health as a point of departure, while at the same time increasing our understanding of illness. Students and professionals alike will benefit from Blaxter's clear and succinct presentation."
Peter Conrad, Brandeis University
- A thoroughly updated and revised new edition of this accessible introduction to the key debates surrounding the concept of health today
- Written by an experienced author who is widely respected for her broad understanding of the subject and her ability to write in a clear and engaging way
- Discusses how health is defined, constructed, experienced and acted out in contemporary developed societies
- Concludes with a thought-provoking discussion of the impact of new knowledge and technology on our understanding of health and illness