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J Health Soc Behav. 2002 Jun;43(2):143-51.

Outcomes in the sociology of mental health and illness: where have we been and where are we going?

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  • 1Department of Sociology, Institute of Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging Research, Rutgers University, USA.


Sociologists of mental health and illness have traditionally used outcome measures that they have obtained from other disciplines, especially psychiatry and psychology. These include official statistics, symptom scales, and diagnostic measures. Answers to the central sociological question of how social arrangements affect mental health might require the development of explicitly sociological outcome measures. This introduction provides an overview of several issues that arise in grappling with this question. These include whether symptom scales or diagnoses best capture the mental health consequences of social arrangements; when single or multiple outcomes are necessary to compare the consequences of social arrangements across different groups; if sociologists should explore the positive as well as the negative consequences of social forces; and when sociological attention should be directed toward social-level as well as individual-level outcomes. The papers in this symposium that follow provide more detailed analyses of each of these issues.

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