How Do Poles Perceive Health? The Social Representation of Health and its Importance for the Social Order
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Institute of Cardiology
Publication date: 2015-12-30
Polish Sociological Review 2015;192(4):511–528
In this article, the social representation of health shared by Poles is presented in the context of its function in society. The theory of social representations and its use in health research is introduced. The results of research are used to consider how perceptions of health shape a social order in which medicine is still a large institution of social control. The above-mentioned research included 30 in-depth interviews and a nationwide survey of a representative sample. As a result, three dimensions of the social representation of health were identified: the ‘ability to function independently’, which involves mental well-being and the ability to fill social roles; ‘absence of disease’—lack of ailments, a feeling of zest and a lack of diagnosed illness; and the ‘biological reserves of the organism’—the resources for resisting disease. Analysis of the data has led to the conclusion that the first dimension serves to preserve identity and integration of the social group, the second contributes to maintaining medical social control, while the third motivates individuals to take steps to protect or improve their health. In addition, the last two dimensions serve the interests of groups profiting from medicalization.
The study was supported by The Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński Institute of Cardiology in Warsaw,statutory project No. 2.13/I/07 entitled “Lay concepts of health and life orientation in Polish society in relation to attitudes towards primary prevention and health promotion” carried out in years 2007–2009.