Part of the Unequal Wales Seminar Series

An Unequal Wales Seminar delivered by Professor Ian Rees Jones, WISERD.

Click here for the journal article.

This seminar examined the relationship between social class and health lifestyles and how these, in turn, are connected to patterns of health inequality.

Health lifestyles cluster along lines of class, status and gender with healthy behaviour, health-promoting behaviour and the avoidance of risk being associated with higher social strata.  In contrast, higher rates of smoking, poor diet and exercise cluster with social disadvantage.  These patterns are important because, for example, we know that in the UK increases in liver cirrhosis mortality rates since the 1960s have been linked to changes in alcohol consumption over the same period and smoking is the largest single cause of preventable deaths and is the main avoidable risk factor for coronary heart disease.

However, health lifestyles arise from complex social relations.  They are collective patterns of behaviour based on the choices that are available to people according to their life chances.   As such they should be seen as part of a system of relations rather than a collection of individual essences. Consequently, a better understanding of different practices and behaviour is not found in making a direct link between a particular practice and a class (for example, smoking and individual working-class people) but in the correspondences that exist between constellations of relations; that is, the space of lifestyles and the space of social positions occupied by the different groups.

Drawing on analysis of data for the UK and Wales and on research that has focused on the importance of social relations and social networks for understanding health behaviour, the seminar discussed the public health implications of research in this field.

Other events in the series: