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Foundations of
Public Health
Lecture 4 - Sociology,
Anthropology and Psychology
as Applied to Public Health
Phua Kai Lit, PhD (Johns Hopkins)
Retired public health professor
(Monash University Malaysia School
of Medicine and Health Sciences)
Lecture Objectives
 Medical Sociology, Medical Anthropology and
Health Psychology
 Social and behavioural factors that affect health
 Ethnicity and health, culture-bound illnesses
 Social class and health
 Gender and health
 Location and health
 Religiosity and health
 Personality type and health
 Nutrition, exercise, stress, smoking, drinking,
substance abuse, unsafe sex, dangerous driving
 The life cycle and psycho-social changes
Medical Sociology
• A better name would be “Sociology of Health and
Illness”
• Sociological way of thinking applied to medicine
and public health problems
• That is, consider how the larger society shapes the
values and behaviour of an individual, including
health-related behaviour such as abstinence from
drinking alcohol, sexuality, diet (e.g. vegetarianism)
etc.
• Think about how the larger society reduces the life
chances of some, to the detriment of their health
• Relate sociological variables to health
Sociological Variables and
Health
 Ethnicity (“race”) - health of ethnic minorities
 Social class - link between poverty and poor health
 Gender - sexism, sex-roles and health.
Discrimination on the basis of gender can result in
poor mental health, poor nutrition, inability to get
good jobs, can result in sex-selective abortion etc
 Location (rural, urban, rich country, poor country).
Health of rural people tend to be poorer than urban
people. Poor countries have less resources to
spend on health care services than rich countries.
Sociological Variables and
Health
 Religiosity - some religions forbid the drinking of
alcohol. So, we can expect alcohol-related health
problems to be less in societies where such
religions are influential.
 Education - better-educated people often have
healthier lifestyles
 Sexual orientation and sexual behaviour. People
who have multiple sex partners are at higher risk of
contracting a sexually-transmitted infection (STI)
Medical Anthropology
 Anthropologists spend a lot of time studying the
culture of different societies, including their
biomedical systems.
 Culture can mean material culture (tangible items
such as tools - e.g. medical drugs and devices) and
non-material culture (values, beliefs, norms etc)
 Non-western systems of healing include Chinese
traditional medicine, Ayurvedic traditional medicine
and so on. It should be noted that millions of people
continue to seek care from traditional healers.
 Medical anthropologists have identified “culture-
bound syndromes” e.g. anorexia nervosa in rich
countries (not found in poor countries where people
may not have enough to eat!), amok in Malaysia,
etc. Mental illness often expressed differently in
different cultures.
Health Psychology
 Personality and health - Some people are less able
to handle stress (lower coping ability) than others.
This can affect their mental as well as physical
health.
 Personality disorders - people with personality
disorders tend to have more difficulty with inter-
personal relationships, have more problems in
school or at work etc. They are also more likely to
end up being socially-isolated in old age, to the
detriment of their health and well-being.
Individual Behaviour and Health
 Health of an individual can be affected by nutrition
(diet of the person), lack of exercise, stressful
events, smoking, drinking, substance abuse,
unsafe sex, dangerous driving etc.
 Some individuals have poor diets (whether due to
ignorance or lack of concern) - this can result in
diabetes, cardio-vascular disease etc later on in life
 Lack of exercise (sometimes due to the job one is
doing such as being a bus driver) can affect health
 Stressful events can affect mental health e.g. death
of spouse, divorce, academic failure, job trouble etc
 Substance abuse (smoking, excessive drinking,
illicit drugs), unprotected sex (no condom use) with
multiple sex partners, dangerous driving, not using
seat belts or motorcycle helmets can result in
serious injury and long term health problems
Life course: this refers to the life cycle of an individual
- from birth to infancy, childhood, adolescence, young
adulthood, middle adulthood, old age and finally,
death.
Health challeges and needs may differ at different
stages in the life course e.g. during adolescence, the
biggest threats to health are behaviour related i.e.
suicide and injuries (motor vehicle “accidents”,
homicide in the case of young African-American
males).
In old age, there would be physical decline and
greater need for health services (including long term
care) while income may have reduced after
Life course and Health
Thank You
Additional resources
https://phuakl.tripod.com/culture.html

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Public Health Lecture 4 Social Sciences and Public Health

  • 1. Foundations of Public Health Lecture 4 - Sociology, Anthropology and Psychology as Applied to Public Health Phua Kai Lit, PhD (Johns Hopkins) Retired public health professor (Monash University Malaysia School of Medicine and Health Sciences)
  • 2. Lecture Objectives  Medical Sociology, Medical Anthropology and Health Psychology  Social and behavioural factors that affect health  Ethnicity and health, culture-bound illnesses  Social class and health  Gender and health  Location and health  Religiosity and health  Personality type and health  Nutrition, exercise, stress, smoking, drinking, substance abuse, unsafe sex, dangerous driving  The life cycle and psycho-social changes
  • 3. Medical Sociology • A better name would be “Sociology of Health and Illness” • Sociological way of thinking applied to medicine and public health problems • That is, consider how the larger society shapes the values and behaviour of an individual, including health-related behaviour such as abstinence from drinking alcohol, sexuality, diet (e.g. vegetarianism) etc. • Think about how the larger society reduces the life chances of some, to the detriment of their health • Relate sociological variables to health
  • 4. Sociological Variables and Health  Ethnicity (“race”) - health of ethnic minorities  Social class - link between poverty and poor health  Gender - sexism, sex-roles and health. Discrimination on the basis of gender can result in poor mental health, poor nutrition, inability to get good jobs, can result in sex-selective abortion etc  Location (rural, urban, rich country, poor country). Health of rural people tend to be poorer than urban people. Poor countries have less resources to spend on health care services than rich countries.
  • 5. Sociological Variables and Health  Religiosity - some religions forbid the drinking of alcohol. So, we can expect alcohol-related health problems to be less in societies where such religions are influential.  Education - better-educated people often have healthier lifestyles  Sexual orientation and sexual behaviour. People who have multiple sex partners are at higher risk of contracting a sexually-transmitted infection (STI)
  • 6. Medical Anthropology  Anthropologists spend a lot of time studying the culture of different societies, including their biomedical systems.  Culture can mean material culture (tangible items such as tools - e.g. medical drugs and devices) and non-material culture (values, beliefs, norms etc)  Non-western systems of healing include Chinese traditional medicine, Ayurvedic traditional medicine and so on. It should be noted that millions of people continue to seek care from traditional healers.  Medical anthropologists have identified “culture- bound syndromes” e.g. anorexia nervosa in rich countries (not found in poor countries where people may not have enough to eat!), amok in Malaysia, etc. Mental illness often expressed differently in different cultures.
  • 7. Health Psychology  Personality and health - Some people are less able to handle stress (lower coping ability) than others. This can affect their mental as well as physical health.  Personality disorders - people with personality disorders tend to have more difficulty with inter- personal relationships, have more problems in school or at work etc. They are also more likely to end up being socially-isolated in old age, to the detriment of their health and well-being.
  • 8. Individual Behaviour and Health  Health of an individual can be affected by nutrition (diet of the person), lack of exercise, stressful events, smoking, drinking, substance abuse, unsafe sex, dangerous driving etc.  Some individuals have poor diets (whether due to ignorance or lack of concern) - this can result in diabetes, cardio-vascular disease etc later on in life  Lack of exercise (sometimes due to the job one is doing such as being a bus driver) can affect health  Stressful events can affect mental health e.g. death of spouse, divorce, academic failure, job trouble etc  Substance abuse (smoking, excessive drinking, illicit drugs), unprotected sex (no condom use) with multiple sex partners, dangerous driving, not using seat belts or motorcycle helmets can result in serious injury and long term health problems
  • 9. Life course: this refers to the life cycle of an individual - from birth to infancy, childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, middle adulthood, old age and finally, death. Health challeges and needs may differ at different stages in the life course e.g. during adolescence, the biggest threats to health are behaviour related i.e. suicide and injuries (motor vehicle “accidents”, homicide in the case of young African-American males). In old age, there would be physical decline and greater need for health services (including long term care) while income may have reduced after Life course and Health