You are here

Medical Sociology

Medical Sociology
An Introduction

November 2008 | 224 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd
What are the limits of medical power? How has sociology helped to make sense of illness, disease, choice, and risk? What are the challenges to medical practice?

This timely and assured text provides lecturers and students with a well informed, penetrating analysis of the key questions in medicine and society. The book is divided into three sections. It opens with a well judged account of the context of health and illness. It moves on to examine the process and experience of illness. Finally, it examines how health care is negotiated and delivered.

Intended Audience
The result is an accessible, coherent and lively book that has wide inter-disciplinary appeal to students of medical sociology, medical care, and health management.

Part 1 The social context of health and illness
A very brief history of medicine and society
1900 - the dawn of the twentieth century  
First World War: 1914-1918  
Second World War 1939-1945  
1945 to the 21st century  
Costs and benefits of 20th century medical innovation  
Health inequalities  
Medical transformations  
Further reading  
Revision questions & Extension questions  
Defining the doctor's remit
Diagnosis: legitimate and illegitimate illness  
Treating diagnosed disease  
Defining death  
Doing death  
Defining doctors as special healers  
Overlap with other professionals' work  
Specialization to the point of incoherence?  
Medicine's place in society  
Further reading  
Revision questions & Extension questions  
Defining health, defining disease
Biomedical disease model  
Limitations of the biomedical model  
Defining health  
Lay understandings of health  
Dimensions of lay models of health  
The context of health  
Biomedical disease and the value of health  
Further reading  
Revision questions & Extension questions  
Part 2 Getting ill, being ill
The social causes of disease
Class, ill health and industrial revolution  
Social class and inequality  
Public policy approaches to inequality  
Mechanisms causing health inequalities by class  
Ethnicity and inequality  
Age and gender  
Tackling health inequalities  
Future prospects  
International health inequalities  
Further reading  
Revision questions & Extension questions  
Risk, choice and lifestyle
Individuals and their behaviours  
Risk taking and thrill seeking  
Risky sex and gay men  
Prejudice and blame  
Cousin marriage and congenital problems  
Risk and preventative medicine  
New risks, new diseases - we're all patients now?  
Risk, lifestyle medicine - what next?  
Further reading  
Revision questions & Extension questions  
Experiencing illness
The sick role  
Sickness as deviance  
Stigma and illness  
Illness as failure  
Biographical disruption and illness narratives  
Remaking lives?  
Further reading  
Revision questions & Extension questions  
Ill bodies in society
Bodies in society  
Embodied illness  
Dualist thinking  
Bodies as machines  
Suffering bodies  
Impaired bodies and disability  
Further reading  
Revision & Extension questions  
The process of disability
Disability and the life course  
Chronic illness, impairment and disability  
The social model of disability  
The cultural model of disability  
Special or universal needs  
Further reading  
Revision & Extension questions  
Part 3 Getting healthcare
Doctor-patient relationships
Appropriate consultation  
Compliance, co-operation, conflict  
Inverse care law  
Evidence on medical consultations  
Communicating across the divide  
Co-operation and challenge  
Further reading  
Revision & Extension questions  
The healthcare organization
What's so special about the NHS?  
Socialized medicine  
Insurance system  
Pluralist socialized system  
Evaluating the NHS  
Reforming the NHS  
Clinical governance  
Medical dominance  
The role of the hospital  
Commercial and industrial interests in the NHS  
The context of care  
Further reading  
Revisions & extension questions  
Challenges to medicine
Changing medical practice  
Disappearing doctors, disappearing patients  
Doctors' difficulties  
Regulating medicine  
Reform from within  
Non-human threats  
Further reading  
Revision & Extension questions  
Change and continuity  
Effective care: competing priorities  
The politics of communication  

Provides a sophisticated introduction to the main issues in medical sociology. It is written in an accessible manner, making good use of examples and of questions that encourage the reader to reflect on the material that is presented. It gives a thoughtful and thorough account to provide advanced understanding - an excellent volume and one that I strongly recommend
Professor James Nazroo, Sociology
The University of Manchester

Hannah Bradby has written an introduction to medical sociology that resonates with the lives and concerns of medical students. She provides a sociological lens through which they can critically examine the organization, rituals, practices and evidence base of modern medicine. This book expands horizons by turning attention from illness to health, from high technology to human experience and from diagnosis and treatment to health outcomes
Professor Gary Albrecht
University of Illinois at Chicago, USA and University of Leuven, Belgium

Hannah Bradby's Medical Sociology: An Introduction pulls together a wealth of material on social aspects of medicine in society. The book combines cogent discussion with summaries, further reading and relevant questions. Essential for medical students and others studying health and illness, this lively text is set to become a market leader in its field
Mike Bury
Emeritus Professor of Sociology, Royal Holloway, University of London

It provides necessary information from the field of Medical Sociology

Dr Zsuzsanna Elekes
Institute of Sociology and Social Policy, Corvinus University of Budapest
May 4, 2019

The text is accessible and is underpinned by activities and questions designed to make the student think about what they have read and apply it.

Mrs Marcia Louise Dewar
health and social science, Bradford College
October 24, 2015

Book excellent for definitions on a introductory lesson.

Mr Lewis Simpson
Department of Health & Social Studies, Grimsby Institute of Further and Higher Education
January 10, 2014

This is an excellent text but it is written with the medical student in mind, rather than a social science undergraduate student. It is an excellent book which I shall use as a supplemental text, but does not cover all of the topics that I teach in this course, and does not cover them from a sociological perspective.

Dr Julianne Law
School of Social Sciences, University of Wales, Bangor
August 31, 2011

A really useful book that covers key issues in the sociology of health very well.

Dr Daniel Bloyce
Dept of Sport & Excercise Science, Chester University
October 20, 2010

accessible, well laid out, very well received by students

Ms Victoria Lavender
Mental Health & Learning Disabilities, University of the West of England, Bristol
July 23, 2010

Good specific text for more able students.

Janet Scammell
School of Health and Social Care, Bournemouth University
June 1, 2010

A very good text, accessible and relevant.

Professor Anthony Pryce
Applied Behavioural & Biological Scis, City University
October 16, 2009

Sample Materials & Chapters

Introduction PDF

Chapter One PDF

Preview this book

For instructors

Review and Desk copies for this title are available digitally via VitalSource.

Request e-review copy

If you require a print review copy, please call: (800) 818-7243 ext. 6140 or email

Select a Purchasing Option

Electronic version
Prices from

ISBN: 9781412902199

ISBN: 9781412902182

This title is also available on SAGE Knowledge, the ultimate social sciences online library. If your library doesn’t have access, ask your librarian to start a trial.