It would be reductive to refer to health as just the absence of sickness. The way I define health focuses on how biology, psychology, social factors, and environmental factors play into a state of wellness. This state of well-being is largely individualized as not everyone has the same level of being “well” — although this can be standardized to some degree. An example to highlight what I mean by this is menstruation: for some, there is an array of adverse side effects that comes with menstruating. For others, there really aren’t any side effects. For the former, menstruation would adversely affect the individual’s state of well-being. This disruption of being ‘well’ would be what I consider illness. When I say this, I am not also saying that menstruation is a disease.  This definition is relatively recent — it wasn’t until I began to take more classes and gain more interest in this area and these definitions that I became aware of the fallacies involved in perceptions of health and illness.

Based off of the list in the activity, a good number of them fit into what I defined as an illness. There were issues with a few. For example, poverty itself is not necessarily an illness. However, there are many illnesses that one would be more vulnerable to because one is in poverty — so poverty would essentially be a distal cause. On the other hand, I think it would be misguiding to consider poverty a disease due to its social implications. For the large part, treating diseases and illnesses relies upon those who are ill. Creating this kind of pathology of poverty narrative (potentially) places that same kind of responsibility on those in poverty to get themselves out of it, ergo “treating” this issue. This is harmful as it would effectively ignore the social structures involved in perpetuating this “disease”. Another was sadness. Depending on the level of sadness, your well-being can be detrimentally affected. Chronic/sustained sadness would have a larger and possibly lasting impacts on health than just feeling sad temporarily. Defining sadness as an illness largely depends on how it’s affecting the individual.


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  1. Danyelle Hotchkiss says:

    I agree with you that poverty is not directly an illness and that it does indeed make one more prone to disease. And this is complicated because if poverty were the cause we could question whether or not it would technically be a disease – however, we know that poverty is a state of not having very much money. In “Poverty & Mental Illness: You Can’t Have One Without the Other,” Carney ponders over the question of which comes first. Today there is not enough evidence on the answer, so we know that more research needs to be done on this particular subject. There has been found, however, a relationship between social class and mental illness as regards the type and severity of the illness suffered as well as the type and quality of the treatment provided (Carney, 2012). Hardship with paying bills and what not could obviously lead to an anxiety or depression disorder. We can also assume that one who already has a severe mental illness would have trouble with money in most cases. Nevertheless, we can come to the conclusion that poverty and illness are without a doubt separate matters, yet they can influence one another.

    Carney, Jack. 2012. “Poverty & Mental Illness: You Can’t Have One Without the Other.” Mad in America – Science, Psyciatry, and Community, March 2012.

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