lation health perspective and the saliency of the social fabric to both

Lation health perspective and the saliency of the

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lation health perspective and the saliency of the social fabric to both individual and societal well-being. Sociological research on health and illness has empirically found in studies too numerous to cite the multiple and complex ways in which social contexts and conditions affect health and illness. This is found at the micro-level where ‘the greatest threats to the health and well being of individuals stem largely from unhealthy life-styles and high risk behavior’ (Cockerham, 2010: 21), an argument that would be contested by conflict ana- lysts. Complementing this finding at the macro-level is extensive sociological research that reveals the immense disparities in health by social factors and structures such as class, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and immigration status. Significant empirical evidence exists about the persistence of health inequalities in societies whereby the poor and vulnerable suffer worse health and die younger than better-off groups. One explanation, the theory of fundamental causes (Link and Phelan, 1995), argues that as intervening mechanisms between socioeconomic status and health outcomes such as poor sanitation or infectious diseases lessen, new mechanisms arise by which the advantaged benefit. Among these are knowledge, power, money and social connections. Thus, socioeconomic status (SES) is seen as a fundamental cause of illness. This theory implies that efforts to improve overall health of populations by interventions with individual risks will be ineffective because socially unequal conditions remain. The view that unhealthy lifestyles and choices are the cause of most health disparities con- trasts, of course, with the fundamental cause theory. In a subsequent study, Phelan et al.
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McDaniel 831 (2004) found support for the hypothesis that in the US, less preventable diseases are less strongly associated with SES than more preventable diseases. Further empirical research on the ‘fundamental causes’ theory compares the US with Canada (Willson and Erfani, 2009). Canada differs from the US in its lesser levels of economic inequality and its publicly funded health insurance system, making for a natu- ral experimental design. Willson finds that lower SES increases the odds of experiencing a highly preventable disease in the US but not in Canada. This suggests that Canadian policies may be more effective than those in the US in altering the social conditions that affect health determinants through SES (Prus, 2011). Additionally, lower levels of socio- economic inequality, as exist in Canada, may possibly buffer the relationship between socioeconomic resources and health risks. Substantial empirical research has been devoted to understanding how social stressors impact health (Thoits, 2010). Crucial findings reveal how major life events such as death of a spouse, job loss, eviction, or chronic stresses such as insufficient income, the demands of caring for someone who is disabled, or living in a dangerous neighbourhood, can damage health and well-being in measurable ways. The effects on health vary by
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  • Summer '18
  • Monroe
  • Sociology, The Land, Journal Of Health And Social Behavior, Social Science and Medicine

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