The Sociology of Illness

What may be considered healthy for an elderly person would not be considered healthy for a 25-year old, so there is no clear-cut definition of health that pertains to everyone. Also, one person might look ill while being perfectly healthy, when at the same time another person could have HIV and not even be aware of it. In addition, there are differing views on the causation of illness. Often times, someone who suffers from an illness will feel a sense of embarrassment for contracting the disease, even though it was through no fault of that person because “way of life and characteristics of an individual” (Bury, 1997, P. 29) are often cited as reasons why a person becomes ill. This is unfair because this embarrassment often leads to the person not getting the help that he or she needs. There are also differences in attitudes between social classes, as poor people are often associated with lacking cleanliness, which laypersons would assume makes them more susceptible to disease. The knowledge gap between the medical community and laypersons is directly responsible for people’s attitudes towards those who are ill.

The official definition of health was made by the World Health Organization in 1974 and it reads, “Health is not merely the absence of disease, but the state of complete physical, mental, spiritual and social well-being”. This means that in order to be healthy, one must be exactly where he or she wants to be in life. If someone lacks a healthy social life, then he or she cannot be considered completely healthy. This is a different manner of looking at health than is the norm since we normally view health as something that is visible. Also, someone who is perfectly healthy physically could have serious psychological problems that are not visible but are constantly affecting the person. Spiritual health means that the person must be&nbsp.at peace with the world, which is a very rare quality, so it could be argued that most of society is unhealthy in that manner.&nbsp.