How Culture Influences Health and Illness
According to WHO, health is a state of physical, social and psychological wellbeing of an individual and not only the absence of disease or infirmity.
On the other side, Peay defines health as that state of moral, mental and physical wellbeing of an individual which enables them to face any crisis in life with atmost grace and capacity.
The two definitions point to the fact that man is under the influence of his environment.
This includes other animals, germs, air, food, water, poverty e.t.c. All these can influence his health in one way or another.
Illness and health are two points on a continuum.
Health, like sickness is a subjective term.
There is no definite scientific skill and measurement for the state of health except in relation to illness and hence, health is not an independent commodity.
For instance, you may be fully healthy but psychologically unhealthy or socially sick.
I may have no physical problem caused by accident or poor nutrition but I may have no money, no job and no means of getting money.
Although he’s physically fit, socio-psychologically we say he is sick.
The definition of health is a relative term. Our perception and social value can influence it.
It’s possible to come across people we don’t recognize that they’re ill and they could be healthier.
A subjective term or relative concept also. It is difficult to define it due to the following reasons :-
- The boarder line between health and Illness is much less than life and death.
- What is regarded as illness in one society might not be so regarded in another society.
- Not all disease conditions are manifested by obvious clinical symptoms hence, arbitrary decisions may be taken at times and diagnosis may be wrong.
The society’s definition may runcounter to hospital’s definition due to ignorance and traditional believes.
Various approaches are being applied to define illness e.g. the germ theory of disease and socio-cultural approach.
The germ theory defines illness as a breakdown in the body’s adaptive system or homeostasis brought about by an inversion by germs.
According to T. Peerson and applying the socio-cultural approach, illness is any state of disturbance in the normal functioning of the total human individual.
This includes both the state of the organism as a biological system and his personal and social adjournment.
Man is the victim of the environment. Why? Because the environment is the custodian of all agents that change his health to illness.
The evaluation people make of their state of health and their subsequent action e.g. We may consult a doctor, treat ourselves or ignore the symptoms.
This varies according to sex and socio-cultural background.
The variation in illness behaviour is also found in different people, culture, families e.t.c and social class affects the use of as well as demand for healthcare facilities.