Sociological Perspectives on Health Behaviour
Sociological perspective on health lifestyles
The sociological perspective on health lifestyles differs from perspectives in other disciplines that address health risk factors, including biomedical fields such as epidemiology and research in clinical medicine.
The sociological perspective addresses how individuals’ social locations, social norms, and socially constructed perceptions influence their ways of living and life chances. As such, sociologically oriented research on healthy lifestyles has the potential to identify and change the fundamental causes of health behaviors and lifestyles.
Differences in lifestyle
Differences in lifestyle are tangible indicators of social position and sociological theory on lifestyle seeks to explain how the resources and constraints of people in various social locations result in social differences in pursuits and practices. Thus, the sociological perspective is necessary for explaining why health lifestyles exist and why they are patterned by social status. Visible differences among social groups provide a foundation for social inequality and healthy lifestyles are comprised of distinctive behaviors that not only affect health but also simultaneously mark status.
From the sociological point of view, health lifestyles are not simply random choices but are a form of culture, a collection of symbols, perceptions, customs and learned behaviours that distinguish social groups. Thus, from the sociological perspective, health lifestyles are part of a set of social conventions or “styles of life” that mark social location and group membership. What makes health lifestyle a unique subject of social inquiry is that they are symbols of cultural membership at the same time they directly affect life chances – the chance one has to enjoy material and cultural rewards in society.
Health lifestyles clearly affect health, and health is a material resource and reward. Therefore, differential access to health lifestyle by various social groups has real effects on life chances. Sociology focuses on the patterning of health lifestyles and illuminates how healthy lifestyles are social products and resources. Sociology has the capacity to explain how and why people practice particular health lifestyles, which provides a way of ameliorating some of the social inequalities in health, an important social good