Socialising disease: Medical categories and inclusion of the aged

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When older peoples' troubles are categorised as social rather than medical, hospital care can be denied them. Drawing on an ethnography of older people admitted as emergencies to an acute medical unit, the article demonstrates how medical categories can provide shelter for older people. By holding their clinical identity on medical rather than social grounds, physicians who specialise in gerontology in the acute medical domain can help prevent the over-socialising of an older person's health troubles. As well as helping the older person to draw certain resources to themselves, such as treatment and care, this inclusion in positive medical categories can provide shelter for the older person, to keep at bay their effacement as 'social problems'. These findings suggest that contemporary sociological critique of biomedicine may underestimate how medical categorising, as the obligatory passage through which to access important resources and life chances, can constitute a process of social inclusion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)383-407
Number of pages25
JournalThe Sociological Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2000

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