'I'd be unhealthy if nobody wanted me anymore' : a sociological analysis of the relationship between ageing and health beliefs
This thesis is based upon life history and focus group interviews on the health beliefs of 26 older adults from Hull and surrounding areas. The research rationale is twofold. First, the area is relatively neglected. Second, it is posited that, whilst existing research reflects the idea that beliefs are constituted in the context of the relationship between the individual and society, its scope to explore issues of human agency is limited. The analytical framework adopted in this study is presented as a contribution towards redressing this imbalance by adopting a life course approach, thus helping to transcend the notion that agency and structure are separable. Interviewee agency is revealed in the way many draw upon a range of competing texts and narratives, much like books in a library, within biographical context, as competent social actors to create their own explanatory frameworks. The main finding is that imagined community (Anderson 1983) is the most common vocabulary of motive (Mills 1940) in the constitution of beliefs. Motivation, it is argued, is more a product of individuals drawing upon repertories of explanations in popular values and beliefs, rather than something which is innate and set apart from the social world. The motive of community appears most significant because beliefs tended to reflect a sense of an essential and moral self and a strong orientation towards reciprocal social relationships. The motive of community is, in large part, considered as imagined because it was often not possible to interact with other community members who included dead relatives, friends, famous and powerful people, and fictional characters from literature and TV. It is concluded that as well as reflecting the biographical contexts of interviewees, imagined community is made necessary by a society which subordinates. and excludes older adults.