PMID: 1529372Jun 1, 1992

Health and illness behavior and patient-practitioner relationships

Social Science & Medicine
D Mechanic


Health is a product of culture and social structure. The routine organization and constraints of everyday settings shape our health. Socio-economic status is of major importance in determining exposure to disease risk and in shaping health and illness behavior responses. Lay explanations of illness affect illness appraisal, self-treatment, decisions to seek care and changes in daily regimen. Somatization of psychosocial stressors is a common concern in primary care systems throughout the world, and doctors are commonly frustrated by such patients. Somatizing patients are often enmeshed in environments of great psychosocial difficulty or are depressed, and many cultural and social factors affect how depression is expressed. Although depression has devastating disabling effects on patients, it is often neither recognized by doctors nor treated. But doctor-patient relationships are often the context for appropriate management of such problems, and how they are handled affect the future trajectory of illness and disability. Doctors' responses are conditioned by their attitudes, training, interviewing and psychosocial skills, and organizational and financial factors. Patient flow is an important intervening variable affecting the ma...Continue Reading


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