A major feature of the discipline of psychology has been its expansion over the years into more and wider fields of application, with concomitant developments in its theoretical scope and its breadth of methodology. Prominent among psychology's new fields of research and application have been the application of psychological principles in the field of health and illness, and the recognition of the impact of social and political values on psychological functioning.
Health psychology is now a vigorous, thriving discipline in its own right, enhancing our understanding of many health problems, and making significant contributions to prevention and treatment. Paralleling the growth in health psychology has been an increasing recognition of the interaction of psychology with social, political and economic factors. Increasingly it is being recognized that a psychology that neglects consideration of the environmental and social context is at best an incomplete psychology, one which fails to address variables which clearly impact on individual choices and on well-being. Human behaviour does not occur within a social vacuum, and an effective health psychology, in common with other applied areas of the discipline, will need to pay close attention to these influences.
Feminist analyses have shown us how social factors such as gender make a major contribution to our understanding of individual choices, and how these may impact on health and well-being. Such analyses, however, have largely focused on the experiences of women, pointing out how a capitalist and patriarchal system disadvantages women. This book extends that argument to suggest that the gender order and other social constructions also limit the choices and behaviours of the majority of men, and that this impacts on their health and their ability to access health-care services.
This book argues that the prevalent social discourses which construct a myth of men as independent, self-reliant and physically competent lead to a limitation of men's choices in ways which influence their health.