The social origin of the illness experience – an outline of problems

Chair of Sociology of Ethnic Groups and Civil Society, Institute of Sociology, John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Poland;Independent Medical Sociology Unit, Medical University in Lublin, Poland
Ann Agric Environ Med 2014;21(3):654–660
[b]Introduction and objective[/b]. The main research objective is a study of social influences on the processes of experiencing illness in the sociological meaning of the term ‘illness experience’ focusing attention on the subjective activity inspired by being ill, taking into account interpretive (meaning-making) activity. The goal of the analysis is to specify ‘social actors’ jointly creating the phenomena of ‘illness’ and ‘being ill’, taking into consideration the evolution of the position of medical sociology on this issue. [b]Brief description of the state of knowledge[/b]. The ways of experiencing illness in contemporary society, including processes of creating the meanings of the phenomena of ‘illness’ and ‘being ill’, are the outcome of not only the application of biomedical knowledge, but are also parallelly a sociocultural ‘construct’ in the sense that they are under the impact of social and cultural influences. In the sociology of illness experience it is pointed out that illness experience develops in connection with experiencing somatic discomfort, this process occurring in the context of influences of culture, society and socially accepted norms and values. These relationships are interpreted by the sociological, interactionist model which presents illness as a ‘social construct’. [b]Conclusions[/b]. Sociological studies on the social construction of ‘illness’ and ‘being ill’ construct a model of these phenomena, complementary to the biomedical model, conducive to the validation of the patient’s perspective in the processes of medical treatment, and to the humanization of the naturalistically oriented, biomedical approach to illness, i.e. to adjust it more accurately to typically human needs manifesting themselves in the situation of being ill.