Sociology of Health and Medicine

Sociology of health and medicine is the sociological investigation of medicine as a subsystem of the social structure. This label is given to traditional study within medical sociology of the influences social forces have on the sciences, practices, and teachings of medicine, and how these components of medicine, in turn, affect society. Thus, the sociologist of medicine aspires to contribute to the development of basic sociological knowledge using medicine as a social institution worthy of study in itself. The sociologist of medicine is most often positioned outside the medical setting, in contrast to the position of the medical sociologist working in collaboration with medical organizations. The dichotomy of sociology of medicine and sociology in medicine was formalized by Robert Straus in 1957, in an effort to identify the affiliations and activities of medical sociologists in the United States for creation of a communication network among this newly institutionalized professional group. The distinction is, in part, based on the structural position of the scholar, on where the basic professional affiliation of the scholar is held. Sociologists of medicine are likely to hold academic appointments in conventional sociology departments.

Aging, Mental Health, and Well-Being

Social factors are strongly implicated in mental health and well-being throughout life, including old age. Sociologists argue that mental health and subjective well-being are powerful indicators of how well societies serve their members both individually and collectively. That is, effective societies not only meet the basic needs of their members, but also provide the conditions […]

Sociology of Aging

The sociology of aging is both broad and deep. The breadth of the field can be highlighted in several ways. First, the sociology of aging encompasses investigations of aging as a process, of older adults as a group, and of old age as a distinctive stage of the life course. Second, aging research is performed […]

Body and Society

Since the late 1980s there has been growing interest in the sociology of the body. The sociology of the body has been divided analytically into two distinctive, often contradictory, approaches. These two traditions represent alternative answers to the question: is the human body socially constructed? In social constructionist approaches, the body is treated as a […]

Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Various terms have been bandied around over the past several decades for a wide array of heterodox medical systems, ranging from professionalized to folk medical systems. Within the US context, the term that has become commonplace in various circles is complementary and alternative medicine, whereas, for example, in Australia it is simply complementary medicine. What […]

Death and Dying

Sociology of death and dying is the study of the ways that beliefs, behavior, and institutional arrangements concerning death are structured by social contexts. Although death is a universal human experience, societal responses to death vary according to cultural values, and contextual factors including the primary causes of death, and normative age at which death […]


Epidemiology is the study of the distribution of disease as well as its determinants and consequences in human populations. It uses statistical methods to answer questions on how much disease there is, what specific factors put individuals at risk, and how severe disease outcomes are in patient populations to inform public health policy-making. The term […]


The dictionary defines euthanasia as an ‘‘act or method of causing death painlessly so as to end suffering: advocated by some as a way to deal with victims of incurable diseases.’’ This is something of an over-simplification, however. The practice of euthanasia has long been a contentious issue and a matter of disputatious debate. Some […]

Health Care Delivery Systems

A health care delivery system is the organized response of a society to the health problems of its inhabitants. Longitudinally, widespread kinship-based arrangements for survival were gradually supplemented and replaced by collective arrangements. This culminated in a demographic transition consisting of the reduction of a population’s fertility. In modern societies it was no longer imperative […]

Life Course

The term life course refers to the idea that the course of one’s life is not determined by a natural process of aging but is mainly shaped by social institutions and sociocultural values as well as by decisions and unexpected events. Thus the life course consists of life stages (e.g., childhood, youth, adulthood), status passages […]

Managed Care

Managed care refers to processes or techniques used by, or on behalf of, purchasers of health care to control or influence the quality, accessibility, utilization, and costs of health care. Managed care emphasizes cost containment, performance assessment, measurable outcomes and subjects the treatment actions of health care providers to external review. Treatment decisions are evaluated […]

Medical Sociology

Medical sociology is a subdiscipline of sociology that studies the social causes and consequences of health and illness. Major areas of investigation include the social aspects of health and disease, the social behavior of health care workers and the people who utilize their services, the social functions of health organizations and institutions, the social patterns […]

Medical Sociology and Genetics

Medical sociology looks at genetics in two ways: its explanations of human behavior, and its impact on the health sector. Genetic science often assumes a determinate relationship between biology and society. However: Reproductive choice is not determined purely by biological fitness, but the availability of partners in an environment that is socially and culturally stratified. […]

Sociology of Medicine

Sociology of medicine is the sociological investigation of medicine as a subsystem of the social structure. This label is given to traditional study within medical sociology of the influences social forces have on the sciences, practices, and teachings of medicine, and how these components of medicine, in turn, affect society. Thus, the sociologist of medicine […]

Social Capital

The concept of social capital refers to the ways people connect through social networks, and the common values, trust and reciprocity that constitute resources for members of the network and society more generally. Different theorists emphasize slightly different features within this broad definition. Putnam’s work (2000) poses social capital as a distinct form of ‘‘public […]

Social Epidemiology

Social epidemiology lies at the intersection between the traditionally biomedical field of epidemiology, which is concerned with understanding the distribution, spread, and determinants of disease in populations, and the parts of sociology and other social sciences concerned with understanding the role of social factors, forces, and processes in the epidemiology of health and illness of […]

Socialist Medicine

The term socialist medicine applies to a health care delivery system designed to provide preventive, diagnostic, clinical, rehabilitative, educational, and custodial services to a designated population free of charge at the time of the service. The prototype of socialist medicine is also known as Soviet socialized medicine. At a time when health care is being […]

Sociology in Medicine

Sociology in medicine, in its most extreme form, encompasses work aimed at the provision of technical skills and problem solving for the medical community while neglecting contributions to the parent discipline. Medical sociology experienced dual roles early in its institutionalization. Sociology in medicine and sociology of medicine were the names designated for applied and pure […]

Sociology of AIDS

AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) is caused by a retrovirus, the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), identified in 1984. It is currently estimated that over 35 million people are living with HIV, the vast majority living in low- to middle-income countries. HIV/AIDS is not evenly distributed and prevalence rates range from 1 percent to 25 percent […]