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Critically Assess Sociological Explanations For Inequalities In Health By Gender

1147 words - 5 pages


Critically Assess Sociological Explanations for Inequalities in Health by Gender

There are specific differences relating to gender in health, for example women live longer than men but spend more of their lives ill. Gender refers to the cultural classifications between men and women due to socialisation within our society, including behavioural differences and expectations. This is more than the separation of sex by male and female, which are merely the biological differences between the two. Gender determines social differences including the roles of being masculine or feminine, and also employment and family positions. Health is directly related to gender, for example in Social Trends 2004 it can be seen that women have higher morbidity, but men higher mortality. The aim of this essay is to look at the four key concepts, and critically assess their explanations for these inequalities.

The social constructionist approach claims that statistics may not be accurate or reflect the reality, but are the unintended consequence of measurement error and a variance in the way illness is defined. Female morbidity rates are higher than men, but this may be due to women visiting their GP more than men so illness gets picked up, where men are socialised to be more tolerant of pain so are less likely to acknowledge the need for medical treatment, hence humans creating this reality by socialisation. Labelling of each gender by the doctor in diagnosis can also affect statistics as doctors are quicker to diagnose illness in women. This theory suggests that statistics are not entirely accurate.

A problem with social constructionism is that it relies on the very theories that it criticises for its own validity. Without these approaches the social constructionist theory would not exist. It offers no alternative explanation for the issues addressed, and simply criticises how they measure their statistics. No answers can be found in the assessment of alternative theories collecting inaccurate statistics.

The natural approach claims that differences are based on physiological factors, which are pre determined by your sex and the differing biological capabilities between them. This theory would suggest that female morbidity rates are higher due to increased health issues due to childbirth and the menopause, yet female mortality rates are lower due to the protecting factors of female hormones. Males are generally larger than females as foetuses which increases risk of asphyxia and injury, supporting the argument that biological factors predetermine the survival rates.

This theory does not explain the variances in health between different societies and cultures, because if health was always directly related to biological factors then the statistics would be the same across these groups. This is not the case. It could be argued that it is too specific to base these health inequalities solely on biological differences, as it can be seen that...

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