Constructing bodies of knowledge: examining the discursive sites through which individuals come to understand what "health" means
DisciplinePsychology : Clinical
SubjectPerceptions of health
Health as an absence of illness
Mechanistic conceptions of health
Holistic notions of health
MetadataShow full item record
How individuals perceive and understand health will impact the health behaviours that they en-gage in, how they engage with the healthcare system, and how they perceive themselves on a spectrum of healthfulness. Perceptions of health are developed within specific contexts, such that individuals’ understanding of what constitutes a state of health is shaped within the culture in which they are situated. The present study used semi-structured interviews to examine how individuals conceptualize health and health status, and through discourse analysis examined how culture and gender intersect to influence personal discourses of health. There were three main themes that emerged consistently within both lay and health-related participant groups around defining health and ill-health: Health as an absence of illness, Mechanistic conceptions of health (food and nutrition, obesity/overweight as unhealthy), and Holistic notions of health (psycholog-ical well-being, stress, and the role of environment on health). Lay persons have had greater ac-cess to biomedical discourse and medical professionals participate in social discourse, so the agreement between groups would be expected. Analyses by gender demonstrated that while males and females tended to use similar words to describe health, males appeared to use more active language references “activity” and “ability” more frequently than female participants. These research findings reflect a proliferation of biomedical discourse at the cultural level, in which the locus of control for health is located within the individual and their behaviours.
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