1. Epidemiology refers to the distribution of illness in a population. Epidemiologists rely on concepts such as life expectancy, mortality and morbidity rates, incidence, and prevalence. Incidence refers to the number of new occurrences of an event (disease, births, deaths, etc.) within a specified population during a specified period. Prevalence refers to the total of both new cases existing in a population at a given time and older cases that are still surviving.
2. Infectious illnesses again have become a growing source of illness and death in the Western world, partly because of the overuse of antibiotics, changing physical environments, and globalization. HIV/AIDS is an example of the resurgence of infectious diseases.
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3. Sociologists suggest that to improve the population’s health, we should look beyond individual behavioral choices to the manufacturers of illness: groups that promote illness-causing behaviors and social conditions.
4. Research suggests that 10 factors account for at least 50% of all preventable deaths. In order of importance, these are diet and activity patterns, tobacco, medical errors, alcohol, bacteria and viruses, toxic agents, firearms, motor vehicles, sexual behavior, and illicit drugs. The dangers posed by toxic agents reflect life in a risk society, one in which dangerous modern technologies and the risks they pose have become commonplace and accepted.
5. The health belief model predicts that individuals will be most likely to adopt healthy behaviors if they believe they are susceptible to a problem, believe the problem is serious, believe changing their behaviors will decrease the risk, and face no significant barriers to so doing. Health lifestyle theory offers a more comprehensive analysis of why healthy behaviors are adopted by emphasizing social structure as well as personal agency.
6. Many middle- and upper-class Americans now focus intently on protecting their health and consider such work—known as a health project—central to their identity.
7. Social stress has three meanings: (a) situations that make individuals feel anxious and out of balance, (b) the emotions that result from exposure to such situations, and (c) the bodily changes that occur in response to these situations and emotions. Social stress, especially when chronic, can cause physical and mental health problems.
8. The likelihood that stress will affect health depends on how individuals appraise the stress and on how they cope with the stress, both of which depend on individuals’ social resources. It also depends on individuals’ position in society.
9. Social networks are the webs of social relationships that link people to each other. Health risks are greatest among those with small social networks, only weak ties to others in their networks, or networks that tie them to poor, marginalized individuals.