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Medical sociology is the study of individual and group behaviors with respect to health and illness. Thus "medical" is a bit simplistic, as the focus is not only on medical professionals or their behaviors, but also focuses on human behavioral responses to health and illness.

Medical sociology is concerned with individual and group responses aimed at assessing well-being, maintaining health, acting upon real or perceived illness, interacting with health care systems, and maximizing health in the face of physiologic or functional derangement. It also analyzes the impact of the psychological conditions resulting from our environment on our health.

Talcott Parsons is often considered the father of Medical Sociology because of his description of the 'Sick Role'. This describes the difference between the role of a sick person as opposed to the 'Social Role' of a healthy person. He defines the sick role as defining the motivation of the patient. Curiously enough, Parsons makes no mention of the role of the doctor or other medical institutions. The sick role comprises 4 aspects: exemption from normal social role responsibilities, the privilege of not being held responsible for being sick, the desire to get better, and the obligation to find proper help and follow that advice.

See also

Important publications in medical sociology.


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