An investigation into the link between social class and health

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I have decided to do my coursework on this title because I would like to investigate if there is difference or link in health between social classes and how a person’s social class affects their health. Social class is an open system of stratification consisting of broad groups of people who share a similar economic situation, such as occupation, income and ownership of wealth. If a person is of good health it means that they are able to function normally within a usual everyday routine.

This topic in particular interests me because I think there is a difference in health between the social classes, so therefore I would like to find out what the main factors of someone’s social class are which cause these differences in health.

I also found this issue interesting whilst we were studying it because it affects every one of all ages and how a person’s diet and every day life style could affect their life chances. There are two types of explanations for the social class inequalities in health. The first one, The cultural explanation which suggests that those suffering from poorer health have different attitudes, values, and lifestyles which mean they do not look after themselves properly. Examples of this might include smoking too much, using too much salt or sugar, eating junk food, or not bothering to take any exercise. The other explanation is The material explanation which suggests that those suffering poorer health lack enough money to eat a healthy diet, have poor housing, dangerous or unhealthy working conditions, live in an unhealthy local environment, etc.

Poverty is the main factor that leads to ill health. People who die youngest are often people who are unemployed and live on benefits or earn very low wages. Having a low income would lead to many problems that affect a persons health. For example that person will be lacking from decent medical health. Not having enough money means; unhealthy food, poor housing, living in industrial areas with the danger of busy roads and pollution, poor education, lack of exercise, long hours and dangerous working conditions at work, stress which leads to smoking and drinking too much and many other factors that affect a persons health, due to the lack of money they earn. A person’s social class obviously depends on what their occupation is and the amount of money they earn, so therefore those earning a little amount of money are those from the lower classes who are the poor.

Life expectancy at birth: by social class and sex, 1997-99, England & Wales

“Manual workers die earlier than others. For the period 1997-99, life expectancy at birth in England and Wales for males in the professional group was 7.4 years more than that for those in the unskilled manual groups. The gap between the social classes was smaller for women than for men, at 5.7 years.”(National Statistics online)

The NHS is also to blame for the social class differences in health because of the inverse care law. Those from the lower classes suffer from more dangerous illnesses than those of the middle class; however the middle class patients are given the most resources whilst the working class get the least. Working class areas have more crowded facilities in the NHS as most poor people suffer from illnesses; this means they have longer waiting lists and not much time with their GPs unlike the middle class. (Ken Browne)

However I have also found this little section of information from doing some research on the internet, I will try and find out if this relates in anyway to the research I am going to do.

“Wealthy kids not always healthy

Children from poorer families do not necessarily have worse health than those with more affluent and better educated parents, research shows.

A British Medical Journal study looked at insulin resistance – which ups the risk of diabetes and heart disease – in relation to socioeconomic status.

Among Danish schoolchildren, those with highly educated and big earning parents were the least insulin resistant.

However, the opposite was true for children from Estonia and Portugal.”


The research method I will use is the quantitative research method. I will use questionnaires to collect my data as this will give me statistics, for example, I would like to find out if people from different social classes smoke or not, or the type of food they eat. I am going to hand my questionnaire out to 20 people and I will be expecting to get them back on the same day. The results I will gather will be quantitative data which is reliable for my research. Using my results I will make tally charts which will then take me further onto making graphs, so my data will be easy to read and help me come to a conclusion of my aim. The sampling method that I am going to use is the simple random method.

My sampling frame will consist of adults who are working; I need to make sure that the people I select to fill my questionnaire in are a combination of people from working class and middles class. This is important because if I do not have a combination of people from different social classes, I will not be able to compare the classes with their health and see if a person from the middle class differentiates from a person from the working class by health. By finding out what their job is I can figure out to what social class they belong to and then move onto find out whether there is a link between their social class and their health.

I have chosen to use the quantitative research method instead of the qualitative research method because I need basic answers that are reliable and which will give me statistical data. I am using questionnaires instead of structured interviews because questionnaires are less time consuming and easier as I can get more people involved. My questionnaire will consist of closed questions as I am only trying to get statistics. The questionnaire is going to be pre-coded I am trying to find out whether a person smokes or not, rather than why they smoke. I will also get the same kind of answers if I asked the questionnaire questions at an interview so I am better off giving out questionnaires.

The questions I put on my questionnaire have to be very well thought about, I need to make sure I take ethical issues into account, being aware of my questions not harming or offending anyone in any way.

Questions I have on my questionnaire that may offend someone may be one such as, “What is your occupation?” Some people for example an unskilled manual worker may feel ashamed of his/her job or some people may just not want to share what their occupation is with me. Another question in my questionnaire that people may not want to answer would be, “Do you smoke?” as smoking can be something personal. However I can not do anything about this issue because both of these questions directly link to my hypothesis, as I need to find out what a persons occupation is in order to be able to tell their social class. As for asking a person if they smoke or not is also vital as that is one of my aims that I need to find out.

I will try to avoid these situations by whilst handing my questionnaire out I will assure the respondents that the information will be confidential. I am hoping this will make the respondents feel secure about the information they give me and that they answer the questions truthfully in order for me to get reliable results.

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