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Social Class and Lay Explanations of the Etiology of Arthritis

Ruth Gale Elder
Journal of Health and Social Behavior
Vol. 14, No. 1 (Mar., 1973), pp. 28-38
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2136934
Page Count: 11
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Abstract

A study was made of the effect of social class upon laymen's etiological explanations of symptoms. Interviews of 160 middle-aged Americans from five different social strata, who had specific symptoms of arthritis, were analyzed for their ideas about the cause of these symptoms. Those in higher classes were more likely to attribute symptoms to aging, heredity, or to state that the cause was unknown, whereas those in lower classes were more likely to emphasize the press of environmental circumstances: exposure to cold, water, dampness, or working conditions. These variations reflected the respondents' life circumstances and the greater number of environmental hardships experienced by those low in the socio-economic structure. They also reflected the continued existence of folk theories about the cause and prevention of arthritis, accepted by many in lower class positions but rejected by those in higher.

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