People live in a social world. We have relationships with individual people an acquaintance, a friend, or a family member and with groups. As we interact with people, we affect them and they affect us. But our social world is larger than just the people we know or meet, and it contains levels of social spheres, such as our community and our family, and each level affects the others.
On a fairly broad level, our society affects the health of individuals by promoting certain values of our culture. One of these values is that being fit and healthy is good. Often the mass media television, newspapers, and so on reflect these values by setting good examples and urging us to eat well, not to use drugs, and not to drink and drive. The mass media can do much to promote health. But sometimes these media encourage unhealthful behavior, such as when we observe celebrities on television smoking cigarettes or drinking excessively. Can individuals affect society’s values? Yes. As part of the society, we can affect its values by writing our opinions to the mass media, selecting which television shows and movies to watch, and buying healthful products, for example.
Our community consists of individuals who live fairly near one another, such as in the same town or county. These people influence and are influenced by each other. This influence can be seen in the research finding that communities differ in the extent to which their members practice certain health-related behaviors, such as smoking cigarettes or consuming fatty diets. These differences may develop in many ways. For instance, adolescents often start smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol as a result of peer pressure. Sometimes simply observing other teenagers engaged in these behaviors can encourage adolescents to smoke and drink. They want very much to be popular and to look cool or tough to others in their community. These examples involve clear and powerful motivational elements that are social in nature.
The closest and most continuous social relation ships for most people occur within the family, which can include non-relatives who live together and share a strong emotional bond. As individuals grow and develop in early childhood, the family has an especially strong influence. Children learn many health-related behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs from their parents, brothers, and sisters. For instance, parents can set good examples for healthful behavior by using seat belts, serving and eating nutritious meals, exercising, not
smoking, and so on.
Families can also encourage children to perform healthful behaviors and praise them when they do. Moreover, as we have said, an individual can influence the larger social unit. A family may stop eating certain nutritious foods, such as sprouts or fish, because one of the children has a tantrum when these foods are served. The role of biological, psychological, and social factors in health and illness is not hard to see. What is more difficult to understand is how health is affected by the interplay of these components, as the Bio psychosocial model proposes.