Question sidra Social Sciences

Evaluate sociological and biological constructs of health

evaluate sociological and biological construct of health in 200/300 words

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Health, traditionally, has been represented and socially ‘constructed’ as the absence of illness (Almedom & Glandon, 2007; Burr, 2015). However, this view has been challenged for being too simplistic; as the World Health Organisation (2014: 1) suggests, health is more complex, being a ‘state of complete physical, mental and emotional well-being’. Two dominant models - the medical and social models – which are influenced by biological and sociological perspectives have come to influence how individuals and society construct their experiences of health and illness (Nettleton, 2006). The traditional biomedical model represents ill-health as caused by individual deficits, resulting from impairment, damage and degradation to the human body (Ogden, 2012). In contrast, sociological explanations adopt a social model of health (Oliver, 2013), which challenges such deterministic attributions of illness (Shakespeare, 2006). The social model suggests that the biomedical model fails to acknowledge the impact of cultural and social factors on health, which leads individuals experiencing health inequalities, stigma and social exclusion, which all impede well-being (Shakespeare, 2006). However, both theoretical viewpoints are similarly challenged, for both consider only one aspect as the sole cause of illness - either internal or external factors (Oliver, 2009). Thus, biological and sociological models fail to acknowledge how people come to experience health in relation to both individual and social factors (Burr, 2015). Consequently, this led to the development of a more holistic model of health - the biopsychosocial model of health (Sarafino & Smith, 2014). This model addresses the weaknesses of biological and sociological constructs of health, to represent health as how people psychologically construct individual understandings of health in relation to both biological and social forces (Sarafino and Smith, 2014).


Almedom, A.M. & Glandon, D., (2007). Resilience is not the absence of PTSD any more than health is the absence of disease. Journal of Loss and Trauma, 12(2), 127-143.
Burr, V., (2015). Social constructionism. London: Routledge.
Nettleton, S., (2006). The sociology of health and illness. Bristol: Polity.
Ogden, J., (2012). Health psychology. London: McGraw-Hill Education (UK).
Oliver, M., (2013). The social model of disability: Thirty years on. Disability & Society, 28(7), 1024-1026.
Sarafino, E.P. & Smith, T.W., (2014). Health psychology: Biopsychosocial interactions. London: John Wiley & Sons.
Shakespeare, T. (2006). The social model of disability in L. Davis, The Disability Studies Reader, London: Routledge. (pp.197-204).
World Health Organisation (2014) Mental Health: A state of well-being. Retrieved from: (Accessed 14th October, 2016).