1. What is meant by the phrase ‘health is a social construct’?
The statement Health is a social construct, is related to the belief’s which we hold within on ‘What is healthy’? One definition of health is ‘Health is not merely the absence of disease, but a state of complete physical, mental, spiritual and social well-being’. (World Health Organisation, 1946, as quoted in Naidoo and Wills,1994). Health is difficult to define as it can mean many things to many people.
When we discuss health as a social construct it means our beliefs about how healthy we are, are shaped or influenced by the people around us, our family, schools, the work environment and the social scene which we belong too. Age, gender, society, culture and the medical worlds view can also influence how we see health.
Our age can determine how healthy we view ourselves, for example, we have all heard people say “she looks good for her age”. The values we hold are shaped by society, especially the media who are constantly telling us what is perceived as attractive or healthy. However, attractiveness doesn’t always equal healthy.
Gender too can influence how healthy we may be. Certain types of illness are gender specific such as breast cancer or Osteoporosis for women or prostrate or testicular cancer for men. Statistics also suggest than women in Western Societies live longer than men.
Culture is also a factor in how healthy you are. In the UK the average life expectancy is 77.5 years in Zimbabwe it is 36.8 years (World Health Organisation, 2005). Dementia exists to describe a way of ageing in this country but does not exist as a term in Africa.
The medical world can also influence how healthy you feel. If a Doctor or medical person makes a diagnosis it gives credence to the illness the person is perceived to be suffering. This is especially prevalent when an employee is required to submit a sick note to cover...