Health as a social construct challenges the notion that health is solely an individual’s responsibility. Because health is affected by your context, other people, society, culture, environment, education, income and much more, it must be viewed as something for which society has some responsibility.
In addition to this, that fact that some health determinants are non-modifiable means that our health is affected by things beyond our control. Furthermore, there are a number of determinants that are difficult to change, and some that really cannot be changed throughout a person’s life time. For example, a young child does not have control over what they eat, where they live, they access to health services and technology, their family income, their level of education, and much more.
Having a number of the determinants of health beyond our control, some of which are controlled by others, both individuals and corporately, challenges the notion that health is solely an individual’s responsibility. Health cannot be solely the individuals responsibility.
Of course the individual has some responsibility for their health. We should seek to change things within our control in order to improve our health. We should lower our risk behaviours and increase our protective behaviours. But eating well, doing exercise and sleeping are not all there is to having good health. Good health often requires lots of money, high levels of education, and a supporting social network, among other things.
Health is a result of the interrelationships between the determinants of health and the individual. It is a result of not only the person, but their entire context, from the country they are born in to their closest friends and family. This complex nature of health, shows us that health is a social construct and challenges the notion that health is solely an individual’s responsibility and helps explain why some groups have better health than others.