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Title: Women's experiences of living in an unequal society : exploring contemporary understandings of explanations for inequalities in health
Author: Peacock, Marian
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2012
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This thesis provides a sociological critique of contemporary social epidemiology in explaining the health and social problems consequential on life in unequal societies. It accomplishes this through an empirical study exploring shame and social comparison, revealed through the accounts of a small group of women in Salford, in the north of England. Inequality has been increasing in many developed countries in recent decades and it is well established that unequal societies have higher rates of morbidity and premature mortality than more equal ones. What is less well understood - and more contested, in both psychosocial 1 and neo-material explanations for health inequalities - are the processes by which inequality gets inside the body and the social body, and what it is about inequality that is health damaging. This study set out to make a contribution to the literature through a qualitative exploration of shame and social comparison, seen by psychosocial theorists as central to the above process. A psycho-social (Free Association Narrative Interview) approach was utilised to explore the place of shame and social comparison in women's lives. Shame is a painful emotion, likely to be denied or avoided and hard to speak of, and this approach was chosen to facilitate in-depth exploration. Individuals are not passive recipients of inequality; they may resist and endeavour to protect themselves. Understanding these processes, frequently missing from contemporary epidemiological explanations, was a key aspect of this study. The findings of this study and particularly the no legitimate dependency discourse, extend the existing explanations for the damages of inequality. Being of low social status or class, in societies placing a premium on wealth and financial success, is known to be health damaging, and there was evidence of this in this study. However, shame was not present in quite the ways that might be anticipated, and I argue that class was found to be both protective and constraining. Including class and neoliberalism enhances understanding of inequality.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available