In What Ways Do Social Factors Influence an Individual’s Health

In what ways do social factors influence an individual’s health?

To understand what influences an individual’s health, their perceptions and societal structures must be critically examined to identify factors that can either inhibit or improve health Germov (2005, p. 4). This essay will explore through the development of health sociology and modelling the ways in which social factors impact upon an individual’s health.

The concept of health is complex and dynamic where not all illnesses are caused by biological agents Laimputtong, Fanany and Verrinder (2012, p. 198).   Its meaning in fact; is embedded in the unique individual, family social and cultural contexts in which the term is used. Taylor (2008, p. 4). Brown (1995) supports this concept by stating that the social construction of health has moved beyond the traditional biomedical interpretations that focused on an individual’s medically defined pathology and that the combination of many social forces combine to create and modify one’s experience of health. The World Health Organisation (WHO) puts forth that health and illness can be influenced by any number of social determinants (WHO, CSDH, 2005). It ascribes social determinants as those conditions into which people are born, grow, live, work and age and that these circumstances are shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources at global, national and local levels (WHO, CSDH, 2005). None of these social determinants exist in isolation Freund and McGuire (1995, p.5). They can intersect in a way that create inequalities in health among people and these inequalities are seen in part as a consequence of inequitable societies Laimputtong, Fanany and Verrinder (2012, p. 203). But how did we arrive at this understanding? To answer this one must look at how modern medicine has developed and how health and illness have been socially constructed.

Before the development of modern medical science, quasi-religious views of health and illness were...