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Changing social relationships
  1. T Smith
  1. Senior Policy Analyst, Health Policy and Economic Research Unit, British Medical Association, London WC1H 9JR, UK;

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    JournalScan aims to bring different academic perspectives to bear and in this issue a range of sociological perspectives are offered on changes in the social relationships that are so central to health: changing connections between people, new power relations, and the revolutionary impact of the internet. The papers provide insights into (1) whether current approaches to health promotion can be made more effective; (2) how and whether social connections enhance health; and (3) whether internet technology will have a positive or negative effect on individual and social health.

    New ways of thinking about health promotion ▸

    One of the key aims of policymakers is to enhance people’s knowledge about health and improve their capacity for meeting their own needs. Over time, men have been a difficult group to speak to.

    Understanding better how men think about food ▸

    It is thought that the notion of masculinity is important in men’s avoidance of health advice. Traditionally masculine attributes such as risk taking, perceived invulnerability, and endurance of pain potentially exacerbate health problems and deter men from seeking professional help. Masculinity is also an important notion when it comes to food itself. A 2001 study in Scandinavia interviewed different occupational groups and found that working class men construed food in terms of fuel and rejected mainstream middle class associations between food and health. In contrast, middle class participants viewed food more in terms of pleasure and critiqued traditional masculinities where food was not appreciated.

    Gough and Conner interviewed 24 men from the Yorkshire region of the UK and examined perceived barriers to healthy eating. They found three core themes:

    • Practical constraints: time and expense as well as work commitments.

    • Reacting against an intrusive health lobby: men promoting resistance and reclaiming eating as personal choice.

    • Men see healthy eating as monotonous and insubstantial but necessary when physically vulnerable.

    Discussion centres on the second theme. Men are wary of messages …

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