Book review: The Sociology of Health and Illness

The Sociology of Health and Illness, 2nd Edition
Author: Sarah Nettleton
Publisher: Polity Press, Cambridge
Price: £16.99 (paperback)
ISBN: 0745628281

‘Serendipity’ does not normally come to mind in relation to a text, the title of which promises a boring read. Nettleton, however, has packed in so many flashes of inspiration that the reader comes away feeling surprisingly enlightened and yearning for more.

This book provides confirmation that biomedicine and the age of disease and treatment-based healthcare is in decline, and that the only hope lies in a public health, preventative, health-promoting system into which occupational health fits so comfortably. It also provides a clear message that the understanding of sociology is increasingly important for healthcare professionals.

Nettleton keeps the reader’s interest right to the end, by providing a tantalising snapshot of the changing concepts of health. She explores conceptual and theoretical frameworks, such as social constructivism and post-modernism then she discusses the impact of different determinants of health, such as disability, Aids, and inequalities in relation to gender and class. Nettleton also challenges many of the assumptions hitherto accepted as ‘truths’, and for every assertion, she provides solid references.

In addition to an extensive bibliography and index, at the end of every chapter she provides a list of further reading for the reader who is not content with a mere snapshot and wishes to further explore the sociology of health and illness.

At £16.99, this 260-page paperback is excellent value for money.

Bashyr Aziz is senior lecturer in OH at the University of Wolverhampton

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