Social Aspects of Health, Illness and Healthcare

By Elliott, Samuel K. | Health Sociology Review, March 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Social Aspects of Health, Illness and Healthcare


Elliott, Samuel K., Health Sociology Review


Social aspects of health, illness and healthcare by Mary Larkin (2011) McGraw-Hill Education, Berkshire, UK ISBN: 978-0-33-523662-6, 274 pages

As an educator within the social health sciences, I was particularly interested in reviewing Mary Larkin's text entitled Social aspects of health, illness, & healthcare. Not only does Larkin's book bridge a fundamentally challenging lacuna for students in pursuit of understanding both health-related theory and practice, it generously presents a range of evidence to support the key arguments. Importantly, the range of 'social aspects' covered in this book illuminate some of the many contemporary issues currently pervading the allied healthcare profession in Australia. This, together with a deliberate, yet gentle writing style means that this text will appeal to a wide audience of undergraduate and post-graduate students. Throughout each chapter, and section, Larkin offers a series of discussion points, tutorial activities and thought-provoking case studies to contextualise the complexities around health, illness and healthcare. While these activities do not necessarily extend practical or theoretical knowledge, they do serve the important purpose of consolidating understanding and digesting 'new' concepts. While the English bias is evident, it does little to distort the transmission of ideas, issues and challenges associated with broader healthcare settings.

I particularly enjoyed the way that most chapters enable the reader to interact with sociological concepts, early on, particularly with Marxism, feminism and social constructionism, and how these can be used to canvass the core issues around health and illness. Larkin explicitly denotes the signifi - cance of using sociological concepts during chapter 1, and appropriately draws on these groundings throughout the fi rst two sections.

My personal and professional alignment with the postmodern strand 'social constructionism' heralded a confl icting viewpoint for reviewing this book. Consequently, the recurrent overlap of social constructionist thought became somewhat monotonous in sections, and may have been better served by adopting an alternative theoretical perspective in retrospect. Despite this, however, Larkin's simplistic theoretical descriptions enables the novice reader to experience a degree of intimacy with these otherwise challenging concepts, and in doing so, provides an important reference point for the ensuing chapters of the book.

Chapters 2, 3, 4 and 5 (section 1) provide insight into the key social determinants of health such as gender, social class, ethnicity and ageing. In particular, chapter 2 provides a detailed discussion around the construct of gender and gender roles, and how both ideas have heavily contributed to debates around gendered health and illness. The epidemiology to support this longstanding argument is compelling for the reader, as is the perceived relationship between social class and health in chapter 3. Throughout chapter 4, the author establishes an important point when describing the level of understanding around ethnic health to be 'in its infancy'. For this reason, this chapter should be read with caution as the relationship between minority ethnic groups and mental health, for example, continues to be debated. …

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