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Social Construction of Illness Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: May 13th, 2020


The social construction of illness is a major area of concern for social scientists and researchers. Social scientists seek to demystify various parametrical thresholds that characterize illness in social contexts (Barker 281). Social constructionists contend that human beings define and articulate illness depending on cultural, social, and sociological orientation. This reality precipitates indulgence into thresholds that determine human action and reaction to illness (Barker 281). In most cases, people view illness based on perceptions and aspirations that manifest through existence and propagation within social and cultural contexts. According to experts, most constructions that manifest about illnesses are indicative of diverse existential inclinations and realities (Barker 283). Cultural and social realities play an important role in the initiation and propagation of constructionist perceptions that define essence and rationale for illness. Whenever individuals suffer an illness, they seek to demystify and rationalize occurrence of such monumental changes (Barker 284). Indeed, the social construction of illness emanates from socio-cultural realities that characterize human existence in social contexts.


As earlier mentioned, the social construction of illness is an important domain about sociological discourse. Experts strive to decode complexities that characterize its essence in social contexts (Armstrong 2025). Due to its ubiquitous nature and inclination, illness suffices as a major reality that recurrently afflicts human beings in their existential contexts. Therefore, it is important for social scientists to develop an explorative regime that seeks to probe into illness and other areas that characterize existence and propagation in social contexts (Armstrong 2026). Social constructionists argue that most definitions and perceptions that seek to explain and justify illness have culturally derived nuances.

Most social entities ascribe cultural justifications to illness, thereby affecting how people perceive it in their existential contexts (Armstrong 2028). However, such ascriptions lack direct links to nature of illness about its manifestation and sustenance in society. Most societies ascribe justifications depending on the nature of illness and its effects on those who harbour it (Conrad 69). These cultural resonations give rise to diverse viewpoints regarding illness and its ravages on human beings. It is important to note that the perception of illness affects how people react to it in different contextual thresholds. For instance, illness evokes feelings and emotions that are reflective of cultural ascriptions and perceptions that underlie its existence in society (Hall par 11).

Another school of thought posits that illnesses bear social constructions that define how people adapt to them in different situations. Experts attribute this to the fact that human beings are social and interactive (Jutel 2269). In the course of interaction, they develop normative thresholds of behaviour and conduct about their settings. People tend to identify with constructions that reflect various social and cultural realities in society (London par 7). Most people assign meanings depending on how they understand and cope with effects on health and other crucial facets of existence in society. Social parameters are very important in defining how human beings view issues and events that occur in societal contexts (London par 9). Such thresholds of existence are integral in derivative and accretive processes that suffice about human existence in society. Human beings identify with meanings that reflect social and cultural realities within their contexts. Social constructions that define illness bear undertones from immediate social and cultural orientations in social landscapes (London par 10).

The third school of thought argues that medical and scientific explanations that define illness are not necessary derivatives of natural processes of engagement. Proponents of this premise argue that medical ascriptions reflect subjective interests that have no direct link to natural regimes that characterize such illnesses (Parker-Pope par 11). They emanate from researchers and scholars who seek opportunity for self-aggrandizement and individual assertion. This reality necessitates deeper foray into systems that govern development and propagation of meaning and value in society (Parker-Pope par 12). The significance of medical rationalizations emanates from trust and faith that people have in doctors. They respect them as custodians of medical knowledge and other issues that relate to research in that area of interest (Parker-Pope par 13).

According to Barker, the social construction of illness suffices through symptomatic manifestations that define individual reaction to the physical effects of illness (Barker 293). Experience and identity form basis for development and propagation of diverse constructions that characterize illness in social contexts. In the absence of such realities, it would be difficult for individuals to synchronize and demystify various explanations that embody social construction of illness in social contexts (Barker 296). For instance, Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS) manifests through complex symptomatic thresholds that make it difficult for individuals to decipher their existential parameters. However, people construct identities that relate to its developmental regime about sustenance and propagation in diverse contexts. (Barker 281)

To understand the social construction of illness, it is important to understand social and cultural avenues that characterize such undertakings. According to Zola, such constructions resonate through various ranks within social contexts (Zola 616). People usually ascribe meanings and perceptions depending on recurrent symptomatic and clinical manifestations of illness. Therefore, the social construction of illness necessitates a deeper probe into social and cultural dynamics that define its initiation and propagation (Zola 616).

Social constructionism is a pertinent area of expertise that offers alternative views on issues that characterize human existence in society. For instance, it creates new systems and avenues that propagate divergent ways of looking at illness and how people understand various realities around it (Pollan par 5). Social constructionists endeavour to demystify illness through the development of knowledge systems that augment desire for clarity, probity, and accuracy about illness and its ravages on society (Pollan par 7). The constructionist approach broadens social and cultural scopes that define illness in contemporary society. Through such efforts, social constructionists continue to influence policy within society (Pollan par 7).

Social and medical institutional entities utilize constructions as a basis for analysis, evaluation, and formulation of policies that anchor delivery of care and support for those who suffer ravages of illness (Pollan par 8). It is important to underscore that most illness identities revolve around clinical manifestations and symptomatic inclination. This means that most people ascribe meaning to illnesses depending on outward signs that afflict those who suffer its effects (Zola 620). To understand the social construction of illness, it is necessary to institute explorative foray into the social dichotomy of illness. This area elucidates various social realities that suffice about illness and its attendant ravages. It is difficult to understand the social nature of illness in the absence of clarity on fundamental realities that characterize human existence in diverse social and cultural contexts (Zola 622).


The social construction of illness relates to various perceptions and attitudes that define how people react to its existence in contemporary society (Zola 627). Experts contend that social and medical constructions of illness portend divergently and often contrarian approaches to essence and rationale for illness (Zola 628). However, social constructionists believe that most ascribed meanings and perceptions hold monumental relevance regarding human reaction whenever faced by illnesses. When illnesses strike, people seek to adjust to them through changing perceptions that define existence before such occurrences (Zola 629). Such adjustments give rise to perpetual thresholds of engagement that ultimately redefine human existence and interaction within social contexts. The social construction of illness emanates from recurrent socio-cultural patterns of interaction within society (Zola 630).

Works Cited

Armstrong, Elizabeth. Diagnosing Moral Disorder: The Discovery and Evolution of Fatal Alcohol Syndrome. Soc. Sci. Med 47.12 (1998): 2025-2042. Print.

Barker, Kristin. Self-Help Literature and the Making of an Illness Identity: The Case of Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS). Social Problems 49.3 (2002): 279-300. Print.

Conrad, Peter and Barker Kristin. The Social Construction of Illness: Key Insights and Policy Implications. Journal of Health and Social Behaviour 51.10 (2010): 67-79. Print.

Hall, Stephen. “The Short of It.” The New York Times 2005. Print.

Jutel, Annemarie. The Emergence of Overweight as a Disease Entity: Measuring Up Normality. Social Science & Medicine 63.8 (2006): 2268-2276. Print.

London, Allison. “Disease and the Public Eye.” The New York Times 2013. Print.

Parker-Pope, Tara. “The Fat Trap.” The New York Times 2011. Print.

Pollan, Michael. “Big Foods Vs Big Insurance.” The New York Times 2009. Print.

Zola, Irving. Culture and Symptoms: An Analysis of Patient’s Presenting Complaints. American Sociological Review 31.5 (1966): 615-630. Print.

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