The Social Construction of Illness Essay

The Social Construction of Illness Essay

The social construction of illness touches on the relationship between society, culture, and health. Sociologist Conrad and Barker have taken a look at how this social construct is developed. They have divided it into three categories. Those are the cultural meaning of illness, the social construction of illness, and the social construction of medical knowledge. The Social Construction of Illness Essay

The cultural meaning of illness is the view or meaning the culture or society gives to an illness different from its biological meaning. Each cultural meaning has in itself grouped illnesses according to their stigma. Thus, the professionals define illnesses like the ones that would be contested and the ones that would be considered disabilities (Conrad & Barker, 69). Patients who fall into the category of the stigmatized illnesses more often than not fail to seek treatment as they fear they might be mistreated by the health-care providers (Conrad & Barker 70). Contested illnesses according to Conrad and Barker (70) are illnesses physicians do not recognize but are claimed as being the sufferers. The Social Construction of Illness Essay


The social construction of illness is based on how a patient living with a particular kind of illness perceives it and tries to adapt to it. The patient tries to control the narrative of their illness, like whom they tell, lifestyle modification based on their illness, to look and feel accepted in the society. Goffman (19-20) talked about how people with certain kinds of illness, either use it to reshape their lives by seeing the world in a different perspective or use their illnesses for ‘secondary gain.’

Sociologists have seen medical knowledge as a social construct based on its reflection and support of gender, race, class and ethnic inequalities (Conrad & Barker 73). It is believed that medical knowledge categorizes individuals especially women by putting them in their ‘place.’ For example, PMS (premenstrual syndrome) is characterized by symptoms of aggression, frustration, and anger, which goes against the normal behavior of women. Thus, PMS contributes to the cultural idea of differences between men and women and as a result support gender inequality which does not sit well with feminist scholars (Conrad & Barker 74). The Social Construction of Illness Essay

Obesity is defined as having excess fat with a body mass index of greater than 30. Clinicians have shown that obesity could cause several health problems like hypertension, heart disease, and others. However, the society stigmatizes these set of people by body-shaming.

Works Cited

Conrad, Peter & Barker, Kristin K. “The Social Construction of Illness: Key Insights and Policy Implications.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior (2010). 51(S) S67–S79 DOI: 10.1177/0022146510383495  Print.

Goffman, Erving. Stigma: Stigma and Social Identity. London, Penguin Publishers. 1963. Print The Social Construction of Illness Essay

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