What is social class? Definition and meaning

1 January 2018

The first social grouping I will explain is a social class; Social class is a status hierarchy in which individuals and groups are classified and set on a social scale. The social hierarchy is usually based on success or wealth, social classes are recognized by the upper class, middle class, working class and lower class. Individuals in different classes tend to experience different trends in health and ill health, this may depend on which society they live in. Individuals who live or experience upper-class life may experience better health and may have a longer life expectancy for those who experience lower class life. Those who live in upper class may have more opportunities and may be considered more important to those who do not have the large financial status or success as others. Better health opportunities are wider for upper-class individuals compared to the lower class individuals as they are not deemed as important by the government due to the fact they earn lower wages or may work in lower jobs which require fewer qualifications. Most studies which link to health and ill health in social class focus on the Black Report, 1980.

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The Black Report was a 1980 document published by the Department of Health and Social Security, now known as the Department of Health, which was the report of the expert committee into health inequality managed by Sir Douglas Black. The Black Report findings include that health standards in the United Kingdom were linked to social class, ill health increased down the social scale. The main problem was not linked with the NHS, the majority of the issues which came from social and economic factors such as income, unemployment, poor environment, poor housing, and education. Soon after this report was created the Acheson Report, 1998; The Acheson Report is also known as The Independent inquiry into inequalities in health report, the purpose of the inquiry was to inform the development of the government’s public health strategy and to contribute to the forthcoming white paper, Our healthier nation. The report was a survey of those individuals in society who were known as disadvantaged, the findings mirrored those found from the Black Report. The Acheson Report found the root cause of inequalities in health was mainly poverty, the survey showed in order to improve the health of millions who live in poor conditions, the gap between the richest and poorest in the United Kingdom had to be reduced.

The two reports give detailed explanations about the relationships between social influences to health and ill health. The Black Report found that higher levels of health and illness between the relationships with various social classes which the government prevented the publication of the report. The study has been extremely influential as many sociologists still use explanations who are focusing on similar or the same issues and problems.

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