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The Medicalization of Society

On the Transformation of Human Conditions into Treatable Disorders

Peter Conrad

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Over the past half-century, the social terrain of health and illness has been transformed. What were once considered normal human events and common human problems—birth, aging, menopause, alcoholism, and obesity—are now viewed as medical conditions. For better or worse, medicine increasingly permeates aspects of daily life.

Building on more than three decades of research, Peter Conrad explores the changing forces behind this trend with case studies of short stature, social anxiety, "male menopause," erectile dysfunction, adult ADHD, and sexual orientation. He examines the emergence of and…

Over the past half-century, the social terrain of health and illness has been transformed. What were once considered normal human events and common human problems—birth, aging, menopause, alcoholism, and obesity—are now viewed as medical conditions. For better or worse, medicine increasingly permeates aspects of daily life.

Building on more than three decades of research, Peter Conrad explores the changing forces behind this trend with case studies of short stature, social anxiety, "male menopause," erectile dysfunction, adult ADHD, and sexual orientation. He examines the emergence of and changes in medicalization, the consequences of the expanding medical domain, and the implications for health and society. He finds in recent developments—such as the growing number of possible diagnoses and biomedical enhancements—the future direction of medicalization.

Conrad contends that the impact of medical professionals on medicalization has diminished. Instead, the pharmaceutical and biotechnical industries, insurance companies and HMOs, and the patient as consumer have become the major forces promoting medicalization. This thought-provoking study offers valuable insight into not only how medicalization got to this point but also how it may continue to evolve.

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The Medicalization of Society

Peter Conrad

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Reviews

Reviews

An accessible yet nuanced introduction to a fascinating and important topic. Readers do not need any background in medicine or academic sociology to appreciate Conrad's inquiry, and the experience of living in the 21st century United States is enough to understand what he's talking about.

Conrad's fine work investigates and illuminates this baleful phenomenon.

This is an enjoyable and thought-provoking book.

The text is useful, especially for medical students.

Recommended reading for practicing physicians, or better yet, for physicians in training. The so-called gatekeepers need to be reminded (or initially trained to understand) that reductionist medical perspectives are problematic and that the best solutions account for the social complexity that is inherent in the human condition.

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About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
224
ISBN
9780801885853
Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments
Part I: Concepts
1. Medicalization: Context, Characteristics, and Changes
Part II: Cases
2. Extension: Men and the Medicalization of Andropause, Baldness, and Erectile Dysfunction
3

Preface
Acknowledgments
Part I: Concepts
1. Medicalization: Context, Characteristics, and Changes
Part II: Cases
2. Extension: Men and the Medicalization of Andropause, Baldness, and Erectile Dysfunction
3. Expansion: From Hyperactive Children to Adult ADHD
4. Enhancement: Human Growth Hormone and the Temptations of Biomedical Enhancement
5. Continuity: Homosexuality and the Potential for Remedicalization
Part III: Constraints and Consequences
6. Measuring Medicalization: Categories, Numbers, and Treatment
7. The Shifting Engines of Medicalization
8. Medicalization and Its Discontents
Notes
References
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Peter Conrad, PhD

Peter Conrad is the Harry Coplan Professor of Social Sciences at Brandeis University. He is the coauthor of Deviance and Medicalization: From Badness to Sickness and coeditor of The Double-Edged Helix, also published by Johns Hopkins.
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