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Unit 4:  Social Aspects & Lifestyle Choices
Overall unit aims to explain the importance of social factors in effective health & social care practice.

  • Lifestyle choices & life course events
  • Social factors affecting health & well-being
  • Care professional/service user relationships

Defining 'social'
Care practitioners need to have a very good knowledge of the structure & functioning of the human body in order to gain an insight into how the circumstances of a person's life can affect them.  Care practitioners therefore need to have knowledge of biology, psychology & sociology:
Sociology: how societies are organised & run      social class
                                                                                    social relationships
Psychology: the mind            thinking
Biology: the physical:            anatomy- how your body is made up
physiology - how your body works
It can be said, therefore, that the 'social' aspects of care knowledge focuses on:
  • The patterns of activity that large groups of people participate in eg the different lifestyles that people choose & the effect this has on health, wellbeing 7 development
  • The ways a person's relationships with others & their experiences of important life events impacts on health, wellbeing & personal development
  • The impact that a person's social circumstances has on their health wellbeing & personal development

People can be classified by;
  1. Ethnicity
  2. Occupation
  3. Family Background
  4. Educational Attainment
  5. Gender
  6. Location
  7. Age Group
  8. Social Class
  9. Disability

To summarise:  the social aspects of care involve learning about a wide range of care-related experiences & practices that affect people collectively as a group. The emphasis is on the experiences that are shared by members of particular social groups ie we are concerned here with the relationships that people have with society and the impact of those relationships on health well-being & development.
Lifestyle choices & life course events
The human life course - begins at conception & ends in death.  Each one of us has a unique life course because the experiences that happen to us all are unique and completely individual.
Life course events - the events that are part of a person's life course.
Some life events are very important because they signal a change of state or a phase in a person's life.  These events are called life course transitions & egs are starting and leaving school, getting married/divorced, major illness/ disability, bereavement, becoming a parent
Some life events are predictable because they tend to be age linked and typically follow the 'social calendar' of that particular society eg starting & leaving compulsory education, beginning & retiring from employment, getting married, death of parents & older relatives are all important events that we expect will happen at particular points in life.  However, a number of factors can influence whether & when expected life events occur.
Nothing is guaranteed & unpredictable life events occur when the unexpected happens.  They aren't age-linked, nor do they follow any social pattern or 'calendar'  eg  serious illness, accidents, relationship breakdowns.  These are events that nobody expects and cannot be planned for.
Unpredictable life course events can have a significant effect on personal growth & development & can also be life course transition.
'Lifestyle' choices
Decisions people make about how to live their life - lifestyle choices & include:

  • Diet
  • Approach to exercise
  • Whether or how much you smoke
  • Drink alcohol
  • Use drugs

These are decisions that you make and which all have an effect on health, well being & personal development.
Concept - Lifestyle choice - assumes that, as an individual, you have the opportunity, understanding & ability to make choices about how you live your life.
It can be argued that some individuals have more choices & more opportunities to exercise them than other people do.
Your own control of your life course experiences varies for a number of reasons eg your 'biological clock' determines ageing and is something you have very little control over.  However, early lifestyle choices over which you & your parents do have some control can affect health outcomes later eg many cancers are linked to years of exposure to several risk factors, particularly smoking.  Choices that young people make on whether they smoke or not will have a profound effect on their chances of developing cancer in later life.
Nicotine highly addictive, therefore a young smoker is highly likely to be an adult smoker.  If you can resist smoking in teenage years, chances are you will never start.
Living healthily - best choice but quitting a bad habit makes good sense.  A 'couch potato' will get fitter, feel better & reduce the risk of cancers, diabetes & heart disease if he/she takes up regular & gentle exercise.
However, not everybody does have the same opportunity to make healthy choices - easier for the well-paid than the low-paid to make healthy lifestyle choices.
Health, wellbeing & development
Of course, life course events & lifestyle choices affect our health, wellbeing & personal development.
World Health Organisation (WHO) defines health as a "state of complete physical, social & mental wellbeing".  Ill health describes the opposite.  However, whereas the WHO sees health & wellbeing as one & the same thing, some scientists regard wellbeing as a mental state - an individual's perception that life is good & involves a number of things - being in good health but also having a decent job, living in a nice home & being more closely associated with the feel good factor.
Life course events (death of a loved one, birth of a child) can have a profound effect on health & well being.  Some of these events are biological whilst others are basically social.  In many cases biological & social dimensions overlap eg joining a health club can simultaneously improve your health & enrich your social life.
Different health paths are linked to such 'protective' factors as, for eg, being born into a non smoking household, or 'risk' factors like joining a delinquent sub-culture.
How an individual's life course unfolds is linked, to some extent by how life starts - not just the parental genes - but also the parents' social circumstances, as measured by social class.  Social circumstances affect health at all ages but particularly in utero, during infancy & childhood. 
A good start to life usually enhances health & well being whist a bad start has the opposite effect. Reason why it is fair that all children have an equal start in life but, of course, they don't.  Reality in the UK - socially advantaged individuals being far healthier than socially disadvantaged individuals is far from ideal.

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