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Area, Class and Health: Should we be Focusing on Places or People?*


In Britain there has been a long tradition of research into associations between area of residence and health. Rarely has this involved investigating socio-economic or cultural features of areas that might influence health; usually studies use area level data, for example about specific pathogens or about levels of deprivation, as surrogates for individual level data, rather than being interested in the areas themselves. This paper reviews the literature on the relationship between area and health. It advocates directly studying features of the local social and physical environment which might promote or inhibit health, illustrating this approach with some findings from a study in the West of Scotland, and suggests that improvements in public health might be achieved by focusing on places as well as on people.

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M. Blaxter (1990), Health and Lifestyles, Routledge, London.

V. Carstairs and R. Morris (1989a), ‘Deprivation: explaining differences in mortality between Scotland and England and Wales’, British Medical Journal, 299, 886–9.

S. Curtis (1990), ‘Use of survey data and small area statistics to assess the link between individual morbidity and neighbourhood deprivation’, Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 44, 6268.

S. Macintyre (1986), ‘The patterning of health by social position in contemporary Britain; directions for sociological research’. Social Science Medicine, 23, 393415.

A.G. Shaper , S.J. Pocock , M. Walker , N.M. Cohen , C.J. Wale , A.G. Thomson (1981), ‘British Regional Heart Study: Cardiovascular risk factors in middle aged men in 24 towns, British Medical Journal, 283, 179186.

R.R. West and C.R. Lowe (1976), ‘Mortality from ischaemic heart disease—inter-town variation and its association with climate in England and Wales, International Journal of Epidemiology, 5, 195201.

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Journal of Social Policy
  • ISSN: 0047-2794
  • EISSN: 1469-7823
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-social-policy
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