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Med Anthropol. 2016 Nov-Dec;35(6):517-528. Epub 2015 Oct 12.

Class, Social Suffering, and Health Consumerism.

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a Research Centre for Cancer Diagnosis in Primary Care , Research Unit for General Practice, Aarhus University , Aarhus , Denmark.
b General Practice Research Unit, Department of Community Medicine , UiT, The Arctic University of Norway , Tromsø , Norway.
c Department of Culture and Society, Section for Anthropology , Aarhus University , Aarhus , Denmark.


In recent years an extensive social gradient in cancer outcome has attracted much attention, with late diagnosis proposed as one important reason for this. Whereas earlier research has investigated health care seeking among cancer patients, these social differences may be better understood by looking at health care seeking practices among people who are not diagnosed with cancer. Drawing on long-term ethnographic fieldwork among two different social classes in Denmark, our aim in this article is to explore the relevance of class to health care seeking practices and illness concerns. In the higher middle class, we predominantly encountered health care seeking resembling notions of health consumerism, practices sanctioned and encouraged by the health care system. However, among people in the lower working class, health care seeking was often shaped by the inseparability of physical, political, and social dimensions of discomfort, making these practices difficult for the health care system to accommodate.


Cancer; Denmark; health care seeking; health consumerism; social suffering

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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