Sociology of Mental Health and Illness

 Digital Health: Sociological Perspectives26th Sociology of Health & Illness Monograph

Hollingshead and Redlich (1958) (a sociologist and a psychiatrist) conducted an innovative study of mental disorders in New Haven, Connecticut, in which they compared mental illness inpatients and outpatients to a sample representative of the general community. Although not a study of prevalence the study had wide influence because of their findings that different types of mental disorder were distributed by social class, with more disorders among lower social class groups. The study also found that treatment for mental disorder varied by class. Because Hollingshead and Redlich’s study included only treated cases, however, they could not draw inferences about possible social causes of mental disorders.

As the foregoing brief historical overview shows, the study of mental health in sociology has been influenced by multiple disciplines. It is also host to a number of competing theoretical perspectives. The most widely discussed is the tension among medical, environmental, and societal reaction perspectives on the causes, consequences, and appropriate treatment of mental disorders. As a consequence of the host of influences on the field, there is considerable disagreement over the measurement of basic concepts in research, including how to define mental health and disorders (Kessler and Zhao 1999), environmental factors such as stressors, location, and socioeconomic status (Wheaton 1999); and social consequences such as disability, labeling, and social isolation (Horwitz and Scheid 1999; Pillemer et al. 2000). In addition, there is considerable creative tension between those who concentrate on establishing the incidence and prevalence of mental disorders and those who focus more on the correlates of mental health and mental illness (Mirowsky and Ross 2002, 2004). Finally, there is considerable research on the use of mental health services and on mental health policy.

As Clausen (1956) prophetically foresaw, sociologists who specialize in mental health frequently collaborate with those in other disciplines, such as developmental and social psychology, psychiatry, epidemiology, economics (Aneshensel and Phelan 1999; Gallagher 2002), and increasingly biology (Shanahan and Hofer 2005). The National Institutes of Health has encouraged and continues to encourage multidisciplinary approaches to the study of mental illness and disorders. Psychiatrists and clinical psychologists lay claim to the definitions of mental illness and disorder through the continuing revisions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Mental Disorders, currently in its fourth edition (American Psychiatric Association 2000), as well as to measurements of mental distress (Radloff 1977), quality of life (Veroff et al. 1981), and social relationships and support (Cohen, Underwood, and Gottlieb 2000). Sociologists who study mental health compete for federal funds and intellectual prestige with those from other disciplines.

D. The Influence of Psychological Models on the Sociology of Mental Health and Illness

One of the tensions in the sociology of mental health and illness is the interdisciplinary orientation of the field. Concepts are freely borrowed along the border of sociology and psychiatry/psychology. Much work is applied, or meant to be applied, to issues of importance to social policy, such as the social costs of untreated mental disorders. The life course perspective (Elder et al. 1996) is changing how research is done and how questions are being asked. New directions in the field include (1) a focus on comorbidity and severity of illness and its social impact, (2) the need for a closer connection between epidemiology and research on mental health services and policy, (3) the press to develop better measures of stressor exposure, (4) demand for more sophisticated measures and analyses of social resources, and (5) and the challenge of biological research on the stress process to the sociological study of mental health.

Health And Illnesses Defined By Society Sociology Essay

The study of comorbidity of mental disorders in people has transformed some aspects of the sociology of mental health. First, the documentation of comorbidity has influenced sociologists in the field to accept that mental illness is an objective reality. Second, it has become clear that those who are comorbid for multiple disorders are severely disabled in many important life roles. Their progress through life resembles the life path of “social selection.” Third, the acceptance that mental disorders are real physical entities, and the evidence for comorbidity are challenges to the environmental perspective on mental disorders. It is likely that those who have mental disorders attract or create stressor exposure (Eaton 2001). Thus, one major direction for sociological research in the future might be an emphasis on mental disorders as predictors, rather than outcomes, of social functioning and processes.

The social construction of Health and Illness - UK Essays

SOCIOLOGY Explain Sociological definitions ( health and illness)Define the concepts of health and illness.

It aims to offer the students basic orientation in major theoretical perspectives in medical sociology that examine the construction of medical knowledge, cross-cultural comparisons of notions of body, health/illness and practices of health care.

Sociology Of Health And Illness Free Essays - StudyMode

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Sociology of health and illness essay

Despite the complexity of measurement, sociologists have pioneered the study of psychiatric sociology, or the epidemiology of mental disorders. The recent advances of measurement in the ECA and NCS studies have produced measures of outcomes that are scientifically accepted across disciplines (Cockerham 2005). These studies have also provided critical data on the use of mental health services by those who suffer from significant disorders and have had a major influence on other fields of study. The major epidemiological research questions have focused around the distribution of mental disorders and illnesses by social factors, including gender, socioeconomic status, marital status, race, and ethnicity. There is some, but more limited work, on factors such as ethnicity, migration, and location.

Sociology health and illness essay

The controversy begins with the outcomes. There is an increasing consensus that positive mental health and wellbeing is not just the absence of mental illness or disorder (Keyes 2002). There is also a controversy over whether dichotomous diagnoses of psychiatric disorder should be a proper outcome for sociological inquiry, in contrast to scales of distress symptoms (Kessler 2002; Mirowsky and Ross 2002).

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Issues of causality and theoretical approach are controversial in the field. Given the complexity and controversies in the sociology of mental health and illness, it is not surprising that one of the critical areas of the field is measurement. The two most disputed areas involve the measurement of outcomes and the measurement of stressor exposure.