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Module Specifications..

Current Academic Year 2023 - 2024

Please note that this information is subject to change.

Module Title Sociology of Health and Illness
Module Code SC300
School 76
Module Co-ordinatorSemester 1: Lorraine Delaney
Semester 2: Lorraine Delaney
Autumn: Lorraine Delaney
Module TeachersLorraine Delaney
NFQ level 8 Credit Rating 15
Pre-requisite SC100
Co-requisite None
Compatibles None
Incompatibles None

Health and illness are vitally important issues for everybody in society and thus evoke intense interest, debate and sometimes controversy among citizens. This module draws on classical and contemporary sociological theories to gain an understanding of the power relations which lie behind mortality and morbidity rates, health care delivery and inequalities relating to socio-economic position, gender, age, ethnicity and disability. Narrative research is introduced in order to give recognition to the reality of living with illness or disability in contrast to the medical discourse which has traditionally been given hegemonic status in western societies. Health and ill-health are firmly placed in the social context.

Learning Outcomes

1. Critique how sociological theories have been used to reach an understanding of health and illness in society
2. Discuss the key issues in the development of the Irish Health Care System.
3. Assess the connection between how people experience illness and disease and how society is organised and structured.
4. Critically evaluate the arguments between orthodox medicine and medical power and those who challenge it - including those in the field of mental illness.
5. Conduct a short narrative research project in order to understand how illness or disability is seen from the point of view of the ‘patient’ or ‘expert by experience’.
6. Outline the concepts regarding ageing, death and dying and their importance in contemporary society.

Workload Full-time hours per semester
Type Hours Description
Tutorial15No Description
Online activity60No Description
Independent Study300No Description
Total Workload: 375

All module information is indicative and subject to change. For further information,students are advised to refer to the University's Marks and Standards and Programme Specific Regulations at: http://www.dcu.ie/registry/examinations/index.shtml

Indicative Content and Learning Activities

Part 1: Classical theories of health and illness and the Irish Health Care System.
Parsons, the ‘sick role’, compliance, public acceptance of medical knowledge and the altruism of medical professionals. Foucault – discourse, power and control, surveillance of the person. Marxism – Engels and ‘The condition of the working class in England’ (1974), capitalism and medicine, the commodification of health and health care . The Irish Health Care System – A short introduction to a complex behemoth. The intertwining of medicine, religion and politics.

Part 2: Professionalisation.
The development of the orthodox medical profession. The sequestration of knowledge, ownership of training and education, regulation. Medical Power- arising from the professionalistion: the power to dictate policy, to decide who practices, the power to bring ordinary life events under the medical umbrella e.g. childbirth, obesity, alcohol and drug consumption, menopause, ageing, problematic childhood behavior, bodily aesthetics. The power over ancillary professions – nursing, physiotherapists etc. Challenges to medial power- increasing educational levels in society, ‘Dr. Google’, increasing bureaucracy, robotics, ‘big pharma’, complementary and alternative medicine.

Part 3: Inequalities in Health Care and the social context.
Differences in life expectancy, mortality and morbidity between and within societies. Gender and health. The Social Context. The inequalities in this section cannot be fully explained by genetics, climate, or lifestyle. The socio-economic situation into which a person is born has a huge effect on health during the life-time and on life-expectancy. The inequality in a particular country is more influential than that between countries. The Social Context of Suicide.

Part 4. Mental Illness. The Sociology of the Body. Narrative Research in Health Care.
Why mental health care is the Cinderella of the health-care system. Changes in attitudes to mental health over time – from ‘duine le Dia’ to psychiatric disorders. The debate between the anti-psychiatry movement and the DSM V. The view of Thomas Szasz. The sociology of the body – the expectation around the ‘body beautiful’ both male and female. Stigma. Ageing – a medical condition? Death and dying – medical debates about prolonging life, assisted dying. Narrative research – the voice of the client/patient.

Assessment Breakdown
Continuous Assessment100% Examination Weight0%
Course Work Breakdown
TypeDescription% of totalAssessment Date
AssignmentApplied Assignment20%n/a
ProjectSociological Project40%n/a
Reassessment Requirement Type
Resit arrangements are explained by the following categories;
1 = A resit is available for all components of the module
2 = No resit is available for 100% continuous assessment module
3 = No resit is available for the continuous assessment component
This module is category 1
Indicative Reading List

  • Barry, A., Yuill, C.: 2016, Understanding the Sociology of Health, 4th, Sage, London,
  • Hyde, A, M. Lohan, O. McDonnell: 2004, Sociology for Health Professionals in Ireland, IPA, Dublin,
  • Michael Marmot: 2015, Status Syndrome: How Your Place on the Social Gradient Directly Affects Your Health, Bloomsbury, London, 1408872684
  • Seamus O'Mahony: 2019, Can Medicine Be Cured?, Head of Zeus Ltd, 9781788544535
  • Fergus Shanahan: 2020, The Language of Illness, Liberties Press, 9781912589166
Other Resources

Programme or List of Programmes
BABA in Humanities
BADIPDiploma in Humanities
BASMBA Single Module

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