module specification

SH5002 - Health, Illness & Society (2022/23)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2022/23
Module status DELETED (This module is no longer running)
Module title Health, Illness & Society
Module level Intermediate (05)
Credit rating for module 30
School School of Social Sciences and Professions
Total study hours 300
108 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
192 hours Guided independent study
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 40%   2000 word essay
Unseen Examination 60%   Exam
Running in 2022/23

(Please note that module timeslots are subject to change)
No instances running in the year

Module summary

This module interrogates the interaction between society and health. It provides an overview of the interrelation of expert and common-sense understandings of health and illness in society. It also introduces social scientific arguments about the way disease is recognised by lay people and the medical profession, quantified, and socially managed; and considers the social patterning of illness. The module considers how illness and disability (and indeed health) can be under-stood as socially meaningful processes. It looks primarily at qualitative sociological research on the way patients and health-workers interpret and adjust to various forms of ailment.

Module aims

The module aims to:

• Introduce students to the concepts of health and illness in society

• Provide students with an understanding of social scientific theories for analysing health, illness and medicine

• Enable students examine the combination of social and medical perceptions that characterise a healthy and ailing body.

• Introduce students to the varied ways in which lay people and health professionals make sense of and respond to illness and disease.

• Enable students analyse how social factors influence the distribution of disease.

• Enable students understand the cultural and moral underpinnings of systems of health care, healing and therapy, both informal and ‘institutional’.


Defining the concepts of health, illness, disease and disability
Measuring health and disease
The social construction of health and illness
Embodiment and Lay perspectives on health and illness
Illness narratives
The social organisation of medical practice and history of the medical profession
Medical dominance and medicalisation
Alternative medicine, ageing and dying
Theorising the doctor – patient relationship
Deviance, Labelling and stigma
Living with chronic illness
The politics of disability.
Recovery from physical and mental illness
Public Health and the social causes of illness 
The impact of health care on population health
The idea of ‘unequal’ health in modern societies

Learning and teaching

Delivery is through a combination of:
• Lecture
• Small group seminar learning
• Case-study analysis
• Interactive workshops
• Weblearn, video materials & other online educational content
The use of these strategies will be complimented by students active engagement with the learning process as they develop their own learning style.  Students will be encouraged to engage meaningfully with these strategies through personal reflection and reflective writing, use of Weblearn, video materials and other online educational content. Students will be expected to access educational resources independently and also to work with peers outside of the formal teaching contact hours. 

Learning outcomes

On completing the module students should be able to:

1. Discuss the complexity and variability of the concepts of health, illness and disability and usage by lay persons and health care agencies

2. Analyse the ways in which social, cultural and moral contexts shape (and may be shaped by) the experience of being in or out of “good health”

3. Discuss key sociological theories and sociological interpretations of the relation between medical professionals and the public

4. Use basic demographic and epidemiological concepts and conventions to describe and explain changing patterns of health and illness in a population

5. Recognise the diversity of consequences that varying states of illness can have for the individual's sense of 'self' and way of life.

6. Describe the relations between health professionals, patients and those around them, and give an account of how these social relationships may affect the patient's condition.


Assessment strategy

Formative assessment (conceptual writing practice) week 7
Summative assessment, 2,000 word essay week 12, 40% of module mark

Formative assessment (mock exam question) week 26
Summative assessment, 3 hour exam, week 31, 60% of module mark


Armstrong, D. (2003) Outline of Sociology as Applied to Medicine. Butterworth Heinemann.
Barry, A-M. & Yuill, C (eds) (2002) Understanding Health: a sociological introduction. Sage
Blaxter, M. (2004) Health: key concepts.  Polity  
Bracken, A. (2002) Trauma: culture, meaning and philosophy. Whurr
Brody, H. (2002) Stories of Sickness 2nd ed Ox U P
Bury, M. and Gabe, J. (eds) (2004) The Sociology of Health and Illness: a reader. Routledge
Corker, M. & French, S. (eds) (1999) Disability Discourse. OUP
Davey, B. and Seale, C. (eds) (2002) Experiencing and Explaining Disease, 3rdedn. OUP
Evans, M. and Lee, E (eds) (2002) Real Bodies. Palgrave
Lupton, D. (2002) Medicine as Culture. 2ndedn. Sage
Nettleton, S. & Gustafsson, U (eds) (2002) The Sociology of Health & Illness Reader. Polity.
Scambler, G (ed) (2003) Sociology as Applied to Medicine, 5thedn. W.B.Saunders
Watson, N. & Cunningham-Burley, S. (2001) Reframing the Body. Palgrave