Using the cases of two eating disorders (anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa), or obesity, one can determine that health and illnesses are just as much of a societal and cultural issue, as they are a medical issue. Eating disorders anorexia nervosa and bulimia are both mental illnesses. Anorexia nervosa involves starving oneself to avoid gaining weight, while bulimia involves binge eating followed by purging to avoid weight gain (Gerber and Macionis 2012). Both of these disorders stem from a fear of weight gain, and can result in health problems and sometimes death. Meanwhile, obesity is the condition of an individual who is greatly overweight. This condition can also result in medical issues. Societal and cultural factors such as issues of poverty, differences in gender, and trends over time, prove that societal and cultural factors do have a great impact on people’s health, as well as their illnesses.
Eating disorders and obesity show that health and illness are based both on cultural and medical aspects through poverty. The issue of poverty has an effect on health and illness because the stress of poverty can have an impact on a person’s existing mental illness, or result in a mental illness entirely (Gerber and Macionis 2012). Poverty has an effect on obesity because people with very little income may be forced to purchase inexpensive packaged foods, which are full of preservatives and have a high fat content. Fresh foods such as fruits and vegetables may be too inexpensive for families in poverty (Gerber and Macionis 2012). Overall, poverty is a societal issue that may act as an aid to induce illnesses and health issues such as eating disorders and obesity.
Gender differences are a societal issue that contributes to people’s health and illnesses. Today, the media often portrays slender women as the epitome of beauty. This can be very damaging to women’s self-esteem, and make them believe that they need to change. Some of these women may even risk their lives in an attempt to achieve beauty and may develop an eating disorder (Gerber and Macionis 2012). Men are very much underrepresented in eating disorders because men typically display a healthier body image, and are content with their bodies (Gerber and Macionis 2012). Men who are affected by eating disorders are less likely to search for treatment because society stigmatizes men who are affected by eating disorders. Society stereotypes men as being mentally fit and masculine, with no room for mental illness (Gerber and Macionis 2012). Obesity also displays gender differences as an example of societal and cultural issues that have an effect on health and illnesses. Overweight women, and on a slighter degree men, often times are ridiculed and stereotyped as being lazy, messy, and unintelligent (Gerber and Macionis 2012). Women are overrepresented in the issue of obesity because women rank higher on the poverty scale due to gender inequalities and oppression. In conclusion, gender...