1. What is Sociology?
2. Why Should Nurses Study Sociology?
3. What is Health?
4. Nursing as an Occupation?
5. Researching Health
7. The Family, Health and Caring
8. Age and Ageing
9. Long Term Illness and Conditions
11. Social Class and Health
12. Race and Ethnicity
13. Policy in Health
14. Managing in Health Care
15. Social Care
16. Global Health
S. Bruce: Sociology: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press: Oxford, 2000
Written in an accessible style, this book really does what it says on the tin! It will give you a very short introduction to sociology in just over 100 pages.
S. Earle and G. Letherby (eds): The Sociology of Healthcare: A Reader for Health Professionals. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2008
This is an excellent collection of readings exploring many aspects of the sociology of health care, including: sociological theory; sociological research; inequalities and diversity; the body and the mind; and power and professional practice.
A. Giddens and P. W. Sutton: Sociology, 8th edn. Cambridge: Polity, 2017
This is a comprehensive sociological text written by an influential and well-known sociologist and social theorist. The book explores a wide range of useful topics. It is well illustrated and easy to read.
M. Haralambos and M. Holborn: Sociology: Themes and Perspectives, 7th edn. Glasgow: Collins Educational, 2008
Whilst primarily an A-level text, this book covers the expected sociological terrain with useful chapters on health, social theory and research methods.
The sociology of health and healthcare is also a huge area of inquiry and there are many useful texts catering for students at all levels:
K. White: An Introduction to the Sociology of Health & Illness, 2nd edn. London: Sage Publications, 2009
S. Nettleton: The Sociology of Health and Illness, 3rd edn. Cambridge: Polity 2013
M. Bury and J. Gabe: The Sociology of Health and Illness: A Reader, 2nd edn. London: Routledge 2013
D. L. Patrick and G. Scambler: Sociology as Applied to Medicine, 5th edn. London: Saunders, 2003
H. Cooke: ‘Why teach sociology?’, Nurse Education Today 13/3: 210–17, 1993
K. Sharp: ‘Why indeed should we teach sociology? A response to Hannah Cooke’, Nurse Education Today 15: 52–5, 1995
S. Porter: ‘Why teach sociology? A contribution to the debate’, Nurse Education Today 16/3: 170–4, 1996
J. Mulholland: ‘Assimilating sociology: Cultural reflections on the “sociology in nursing” debate’, Journal of Advanced Nursing 25/4: 844–52, 1997
D. Allen: ‘Review article: nursing and sociology: an uneasy marriage?’, Sociology of Health and Illness 23/3: 386–96, 2001
K. Aranda and K. Law: Tales of sociology and the nursing curriculum: Revisiting the debates, Nurse Education Today 27/6: 561–7, 2007
S. Earle and G. Letherby: The Sociology of Healthcare: A Reader for Health Professionals. Houndmills: Palgrave, 2008
This collection of classic and contemporary articles in the sociology of health will enable you to explore some of the issues in more depth.
S. Nettleton: The Sociology of Health and Illness, 3rd edn. Cambridge: Polity, 2013
This text will enable you to follow up on some of the themes identified within this chapter. Chapter 2 (‘The Social Construction of Medical Knowledge’) and Chapter 3 (‘Lay Health Beliefs, Lifestyles and Risk’) are particularly useful.
M. Traynor: Nursing in Context: Policy, Politics, Profession. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2013.
This book is written to prepare student nurses for the complexities of their chosen profession, by attempting to answer the question ‘What is nursing?’ It includes topics such as history, care, education, policy and politics.
S. Proctor: Caring for Health. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2000
Caring is a fundamental part of nursing and yet has become increasingly marginalized. This volume uses nursing and sociological knowledge to examine the role of caring, and the link between caring and health.
R. Simpson: Men in Caring Occupations. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2009
This book considers how men in caring occupations manage gender and identity in feminized occupations. Part 1 draws on theoretical concepts, while Part 2 uses specific occupational settings (including two chapters on nursing)
to explore the experience of men in these occupational roles.
Also useful are the following online resources:
Royal College of Nursing. The nursing professional association that campaigns on nursing and wider health matters, and represents nurses and nursing. Other nations have their own
associations, such as the American Nurses Association and the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation.
The Nursing and Midwifery Council for the UK. The professional regulator for nurses and midwives throughout the UK.
Nursing history. The history and archives of British nursing held by the Royal College of Nursing.
M. Saks and J. Allsop: Researching Health: Quantitative, Qualitative and Mixed Methods, 2nd edn. London: Sage, 2012
This book provides a comprehensive guide to both quantitative and qualitative research methods in health and illness for students new to research.
J. Neale (ed.): Research Methods for Health and Social Care. Houndmills: London, 2008
Described as a ‘one-stop introduction’ to both qualitative and quantitative research methods this book covers both health and medical research and research for social scientists.
A. Bowling: Research Methods in Health: Investigating Health and Health Services, 2nd edn. Buckingham: Open University Press, 2002
An excellent book with a health-services research focus, exploring the measurement of health behaviour, quality of life and health needs, as well as discussing research methods including the use of case studies and focus groups.
D. Cormack, K. Gerrish and A. Lacey (eds): The Research Process in Nursing, 5th edn. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2001
This book is clearly organised and explores a wide range of issues including research ethics, how to write a research proposal and the involvement of people who use services in research.
H. Bradby: Medicine, Health and Society. London: Sage, 2012
See Chapter 4 for a discussion of the relationship between gender, health and feminism.
E. Annandale and K. Hunt (eds): Gender Inequalities in Health. Buckingham: Open University Press, 2000
The text by Annandale and Hunt provides detailed insight into gender differences and also considers the relationship between sex and gender and other differences. Thus, attention is given to (amongst other things) social class, age and cross-cultural issues.
J. Watson: Male Bodies: Health, Culture and Identity. Buckingham: Open University Press, 2000
This is a predominantly theoretical book but it is an interesting read focusing on men, health and the body.
J. Lorber, J. and L. J. Moore: Gender and the Social Construction of Illness, 2nd edn. New York: AltaMira Press, 2002
This interesting book discusses the relationship between society and Western medicine. Offering a feminist viewpoint the book explores the following topics: social epidemiology; genital surgeries; HIV/AIDS; the health professions; pre-menstrual syndrome, the menopause and feminist health care.
B. Featherstone, M. Rivett and J. Scourfield: Working with Men in Health and Social Care. London: Sage 2007
This book is a useful resource contextualising men and men’s health within the context of gender theory and social policy. The book is organised into three clear sections with the last section organised according to specific groups of service users including: fathers; abusive men; physical and mental health; boys; and older men.
S. Earle and G. Letherby (eds): Gender, Identity and Reproduction: Social Perspectives. Houndmills: Palgrave, 2003
Difference and diversity are also a key theme within this text as are agency and resistance in relation to health care.
M. Miers: Gender Issues and Nursing Practice. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 2000
This provides a very useful discussion of the relationship between gender and nursing practices.
J. Marchbank and G. Letherby: Introduction to Gender: social science perspectives, 2nd edn. Essex: Pearson, 2014
Useful as a general introduction to the study of gender, including chapters on disciplines such as sociology, social policy, geography, psychology, history – and issues, including health and illness, education, sex and sexuality, crime and deviance, and family.
D. Cheal: Sociology of Family Life. Houndmills: Palgrave, 2002
A very introductory text on the sociology of the family which combines theory with empirical examples.
D. Chambers: A Sociology of Family Life. Cambridge: Polity, 2012
The growing diversity of family life is explored in this book. It highlights both the continuity and changes that have taken place within the family, and points to future developments.
J. Gabb: Researching Intimacy in Families. Houndmills: Palgrave, 2008
This books draws on the sociology of intimacy to explore interpersonal relationships with an emphasis on researching families, children and personal life.
M.E. David: Personal and political: Feminisms, sociology and family lives. Stoke-on-Trent: Trentham, 2003
A challenging text exploring feminist sociological perspectives on the family. The book includes a particularly interesting chapter on ‘work-life balance’.
E. Dowler, S. Turner and B. Dobson: Poverty Bites: Food, health and poor families. London: Child Poverty Action Group, 2001
Produced by the Child Poverty Action Group, this book examines the relationship between food, health and diet in low-income families.
R. Hetherington, K. Baistow, I. Katz, J. Mesie and J. Trowell: The Welfare of Children with Mentally Ill Parents: Learning from inter-country comparisons. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 2001
With a focus on the welfare of children and young people, this book explores the effects of living with a parent with severe or enduring mental health problems.
O. Prilleltensky: Motherhood and Disability: Children and Choices. Houndmills: Palgrave, 2006
This book considers the relationships between motherhood and physical disability. It is based on a research study that focused on the experiences of mothers and non-mothers with physical disabilities.
F. Williams: Rethinking Families. London: Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 2004
With an emphasis on social policy, in this book Fiona Williams examines some of the main trends in family life including step-parenting, cohabitation, divorce and same-sex relationships
J. Rutter: Refugee Children in the UK. Basingstoke: Open University Press, 2007
Rutter considers social policy concerned with refugees and the implications for practice with this very disadvantaged group. It uses case studies and explains immigration and migration of refugees.
R. Grob: ‘Is my sick child healthy? Is my healthy child sick?: Changing parental experiences of cystic fibrosis in the age of expanded newborn screening’, Social Science and Medicine 67(7): 1056-64, 2008 considers the implications of increasing neo-natal screening for families who are told their apparently healthy child has a genetic condition.
The following articles in different settings explore the changing perceptions and reality of health and illness in midlife
A. Lindenmeyer, F. Griffiths, E. Green, D. Thompson and M. Tsouroufli: ‘Family health narratives: midlife women’s concepts of vulnerability to illness’, Health 12/3: 275-94, 2008
B. Bäckström and K. Sundin: ‘The experience of being a middle-aged close relative of a person who has suffered a stroke, 1 year after discharge from a rehabilitation clinic: A qualitative study’, International Journal of Nursing Studies 46: 1475-1484, 2009
C. Phillipson: Ageing. Cambridge: Polity, 2013
This book considers a number of understandings of ageing and provides a critical assessment of attitudes and responses to the development of ageing societies. It looks at theories of social ageing, changing definitions of age, retirement trends, and poverty and inequality in old age.
E. Stenwall, M. Eriksdotter Jönhagen, J. Sandberg and I. Fagerberg: ‘The older patient’s experience of encountering professional carers and close relatives during an acute confusional state: An interview study’, International Journal of Nursing Studies 1577-1585, 2008
In this study elderly people who experience confusion are interviewed about their encounters with carers and relatives. This is part of a growing body of literature that researches elderly people who find it hard to communicate, rather than relying on carer’s interpretation.
C. E. Lloyd and T. Heller (eds): Long Term Conditions: Challenges in Health and Social Care. London: Sage, 2010
This book explores the experience of living with long-term conditions, and the pressure this places on people and their families, carers and the health and social services. It does not just include contributions from academics, but from those with long-term conditions, carers and health and social care professionals.
E. Denny and S. Earle (eds): The Sociology of Long Term Conditions. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2009
This book is written specifically for nurses and takes a sociological perspective on long-term illness. The first part considers theory, policy and research, while part 2 focuses on some of the specific diseases and conditions that are prevalent in society today.
Other useful books include:
G. A. Bendelow: Pain and Gender. Harlow: Prentice Hall, 2000
E. Sabaté: Adherence to Long-term Therapies: Evidence for Action. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2003
S. Mee: Valuing People with a Learning Disability. Cumbria: M&K Publishing, 2012.
In this book sociologist Steve Mee draws on his experience as a practitioner and lecturer on a learning-disability nursing course.
M. Larkin: Vulnerable Groups in Health and Social Care. London: Sage, 2009
This is a text book for students in health and social care. It considers the experiences of specific ‘vulnerable groups’, including disabled people, children, older people and people living with mental illness.
C. Barnes and G. Mercer: Disability. Cambridge: Polity, 2003
This book provides a concise and accessible introduction to the key concepts of disability. It concentrates on examining disability as a form of social oppression, drawing links with writings on the exclusion of women, minority ethnic groups and lesbians and gay men.
L. S. McEnhill: ‘Breaking bad news of cancer to people with learning disabilities’, British Journal of Learning Disabilities 36: 157-64, 2008
This article argues that although there have been great improvements in the way health professionals deal with breaking bad news, this has not included people with learning disability. Adapting models for communicating bad news to people with learning disability is formulated that can aid practice.
E. Emerson and C. Hatton: ‘The socio-economic circumstances of children at risk of disability in Britain’, Disability and Society 22(6): 563-81, 2007
Data from the Department of Work and Pensions demonstrates that children at risk of disability are more economically disadvantaged than other children on a range of indicators. Also on children and disability is:
C. Connors and K. Stalker: ‘Children’s experiences of disability: pointers to a social model of childhood disability’, Disability and Society 22(1): 19-34, 2007
C. Thomas: ‘How is disability understood? An examination of sociological approaches’, Disability and Society 19(6): 569-83, 2004 considers the ways in which sociology explains disability
S. A. Kidd, R. Miller, G. M. Boyd and I. Cardeña: ‘Relationships Between Humor, Subversion, and Genuine Connection Among Persons With Severe Mental Illness’, Qualitative Health Research 19: 1421-30, 2009
This article considers the use of humour by people with severe mental illness, and finds that the use of humour by patients can be misunderstood by health professionals, but also that it can be used to challenge power relationships by a disempowered group.
Department of Health: Tackling Health Inequalities: 10 Years On – A review of developments in tackling health inequalities in England over the last 10 years. London: Department of Health, 2009
The Executive summary of this government publication details what progress has been made in reducing health inequalities, and what more needs to be done.
C. Pantazis, D. Gordon and R. Levitas: Poverty and Social Exclusion in Britain. Bristol: Policy Press, 2006
This book reports on the most comprehensive survey of poverty and social exclusion to be undertaken in Britain. It contains chapters on mental health, children, youth, single mothers and pensioners.
P. Ward P and A. Coates: ‘”We shed tears, but there is no one there to wipe them up for us”: narratives of (mis)trust in a materially deprived community’, Health 10 (3): 283-302, 2006
This reports on a research study which found that within the deprived community where it was conducted there was a level of mistrust towards health services and to public services more generally. This had been fostered by loss of local services, and what were perceived as broken promises.
I. Christie, M. Harrison, C. Hitchman and T. Lang: Inconvenience Food: The Struggle to Eat Well on a Low Income. London: Demos, 2002
Inconvenience Food is the short report from a research study into the difficulties faced by low-income families, in both urban and rural settings, in their efforts to obtain an adequate diet.
P. Bywaters and E. McLeod (eds): Working for Equality in Health. London: Routledge, 1996
This is an older, edited publication. It is included here because the contributors are all either specialized researchers in health inequalities or practitioners with direct professional experience of the health impacts of wider social inequalities (and sometimes both). The various chapters are still relevant today.
L. A. Culley and S. Dyson: Ethnicity and Healthcare Practice. London: Quay Books, 2009
This provides an overview of the key issues in understanding the relationships between ethnicity and health. Although primarily for primary care each chapter includes a brief overview, examples of good practice and a resources section which is useful for other health professionals.
L. A. Culley and S. Dyson: Ethnicity and Nursing Practice. London: Palgrave, 2001
This examines sociological theories of ethnicity, race and racisms, inequalities in physical and mental health, and issues of ethnic monitoring and interpreting, and considers specific areas of nursing and midwifery practice.
For the health beliefs and experiences of gypsies and travellers, a group whose health is recognised as being poor even compared to other socially deprived groups, see G. Parry, P. Van Cleemput, J. Peters et al:
‘Health status of gypsies and travellers in England’, Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 61(3): 108-204, 2007 and P. Van Cleemput, G. Parry, K. Thomas, J. Peters and C. Cooper: ‘Health-related beliefs and experiences of gypsies and travellers’, Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 61(3): 205-10, 2007
J. Hubert: ‘Family carers’ views of services for people with learning disabilities from Black and minority ethnic groups: a qualitative study of 30 families in a south London borough’, Disability and Society 21/3: 259-72, 2006 reports a qualitative study on BME experience of care services.
An analysis of patient surveys that examine why patients from minority ethnic communities evaluate primary care more poorly than white patients is N. Mead and M. Roland: ‘Understanding why some minority ethnic patients evaluate medical care more negatively than white patients: a cross sectional analysis of a routine patient survey in English general practices’, British Medical Journal 339: b3450, 2009
D. McGhee: Intolerant Britain? Hate, Citizenship and difference. Maidenhead: Open University Press, 2005 uses case studies from recent history to examine issues such as racism and community and religious segregation. Although this volume is not about health the issues analysed impact on health and wellbeing.
Language barriers are a common cause of misunderstanding between health professionals and patients and the impact of this is discussed in A. Bischoff, P. A. Bovier, R. Isah et al: ‘Language barriers between nurses and asylum seekers: their impact on symptom reporting and referral’, Social Science and Medicine 57: 503-12, 2003
A. Henley and J. Schott: Culture, Religion and Patient Care in a Multi-ethnic Society. London: Age Concern, 1999
This is an extremely useful resource for providing, planning or managing care in all health care settings. It describes ways of identifying cultural and religious needs and offers sensitive and practical ways of meeting them whilst cautioning against the dangers of stereotyping.
A. Fatchett: Social Policy for Nurses. Cambridge: Polity, 2012
Explores specific aspects of policy that affect the contexts within which nurses work – not just ‘health-care’ policy.
C. Doherty: ‘A qualitative study of health service reform on nurses’ working lives: Learning from the UK National Health Service (NHS)’, International Journal of Nursing Studies 46: 1134-1142, 2009
This articles reports on interviews with nurses about the NHS reforms since 2000 and the impact they have had on their service.
I. Crinson: Health Policy: A Critical Perspective. London: Sage, 2008
This book focuses largely on UK health and healthcare policy providing quite a detailed analysis of issues such as the policy-making process, health care governance and health promotion. The book is a challenging read but case studies are used to illustrate how policy has evolved and developed over time.
I. Greener: Healthcare in the UK: Understanding continuity and change. Bristol: Policy Press, 2008
This is an interesting book with a broad-ranging focus on health, policy and management. It also has a whole section devoted to nursing issues. This is a rigorous book, but also an accessible one.
C. Ham: Health Policy in Britain, 6th edn. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009
Since Sociology for Nurses went to press a 6th edition of this excellent text has been published which brings health policy up to date with the final years of Blair as Prime Minister and the early stages of Gordon Brown.
R. Klein: The new politics of the NHS: from creation to reinvention, 5th edn. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009
Radcliffe focuses on political processes that have shaped the NHS, covering issues such as party political debates, interest groups, structure, centralisation, funding, challenges, and rationing. It therefore provides a broad approach to understanding the evolution of the NHS.
J. Hewitt-Taylor: Understanding and Managing Change in Health Care. Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013
A useful primer on the main areas of managing change in health-care organizations.
V. Iles: Really Managing Health Care. Maidenhead: Open University Press, 2005
A useful introduction to management applied to the ‘real’ setting of health care. It includes some consideration of sociological concepts and several case studies that are discussed to illustrate how the principles of management can be used.
K. Walsh and J. Smith (eds): Healthcare Management. Maidenhead: Open University Press, 2006
Although this is not a ‘sociology’ book, it does draw on a number of sociological concepts to inform a thorough discussion of contemporary healthcare management. It is made up of 28 self-contained chapters that build into a comprehensive reference source which can be used to learn more about the management and organisation of health care.
D. Allen and D. Hughes: Nursing and the Division of Labour in Healthcare. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002
This book examines the organization and delivery of nursing care from a sociological perspective. It includes reports of research on a range of issues, including team work, expanded roles and continuing professional development. It draws on sociological theory to explain and illuminate different aspects of practice.
J. Green and N. Thorogood: Analysing Health Policy: A Sociological Approach. London: Longman, 1998
This examines broader health management concerns from a sociological perspective. It is an accessible text which uses examples from research to examine issues in health policy and management.
T. J. Watson: Sociology, Work and Industry, 4th edn. London: Routledge, 2003
Do not be put off by the title; this is a comprehensive text which applies sociology to organizations. It is written clearly and demonstrates how ideas and concepts from sociology can be used to understand work and organizations.
M. Barnes: Care in Everyday Life. Bristol: Policy Press, 2012
This book gives a discussion of the practices of care, and some of the ethical issues of delivering social care.
J. Glasby: Understanding Health and Social Care, 2nd edn. Bristol: Policy Press, 2012
This book explores the key changes to social care services over the past twenty years, exploring both policy changes and practical responses.
S. Carr: Personalization: A Rough Guide (revised edn). London: Social Care Institute for Excellence, 2010
An introductory guide to personalization in social care, placing personalization in the context of wider social care reform.
B. Sibbald, R. McDonald and M. Roland: ‘Shifting care from hospitals to the community: a review of the evidence on quality and efficiency’, Journal of Health Services Research and Policy, 12: 110-117, 2007
Reforms in primary care have had many objectives in policy change in recent years. Partly these have been to drive change and efficiency in the wider system as well as to improve the quality of health care in the community. Related goals have been to both relive acute hospitals of services which in principle can be delivered elsewhere and to make socialised services available closer to home for patents and indeed to provide general practitioners to maintain and develop specialist interests. This article reviews the evidence on the effects of different aspects of this trend.
C. C. Choy: Empire of Care: Nursing and Migration in Filipino American History. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2003
This enlightening book is well worth reading if you are interested in the history of nurse migration. This particular book offers an historical account of the immigration of nurses from the Philippines to the United States.
A. Giddens: Runaway World: How globalisation is shaping our lives. London: Profile Books, 1999
This engaging book on the impact of globalisation on everyday life is written by leading British sociologist Anthony Giddens.
Globalization and Health
This is an open access journal exploring both negative and positive influences of globalization on health.
C. Kemp and L. A. Lasbridge: Refugee and Immigrant Health: A handbook for health professionals. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004
This is a really useful resource which considers the health needs of 31 distinct population groups. Examining a wide range of issues, this book focuses on communication, reproductive and sexual health, screening, religion, health beliefs and the end-of-life, amongst others.
R. Labonté: Health promotion in action: From local to global empowerment. Houndmills: Palgrave, 2008
This exciting and practical book introduces global case studies to explore the relationship between health promotion and globalisation. It shows how practitioners can respond to the challenges of globalisation and offers practical guidance.
H. Rosling: Global Health: An introductory textbook. Sweden: Studentlitteratur, 2006
This is a very comprehensive introductory textbook on global health exploring: health determinants and indicators, health transition, communicable and non-communicable diseases, nutritional disorders, injury, reproductive and sexual health, global population change, health policy, health systems and global health co-operation.
Join our mailing list