Political Causes of Social Causes of Health

Monday May 29 8:30 am to 10:00 am (Eastern Daylight Time)
McLaughlin College-MC-211

Session Code: HEA6
Session Format: Regular Session
Session Language: English
Research Cluster Affiliation: Sociology of Health
Session Categories: In-person

Long-standing research has highlighted that social conditions such as employment, education, and medical care are the fundamental causes of health and disease. It is also recognized politics and political community have a lot to do with the distribution and quality of these social causes. The WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health (2008:1) also sees the unequal distribution of health outcomes as the result of “a toxic combination of poor social policies and programmes, unfair economic arrangements, and bad politics.” However, scholarly research including within the social determinants of health paradigm has paid only limited attention to how the “upstream” political forces may determine the social causes of disease that lead to health disparities within and across populations. This session welcomed papers that explore the role of politics in social determinants of health and health inequality. Tags: Health and Care

Organizer: Cary Wu, York University; Chair: Andrew Patterson, MacEwan University


Marie-Pier Joly, Concordia University; Luin Goldring, York University

The Cumulative Disadvantages of Precarious Legal Status on Self-Rated Health

This study examines the relationship between immigration status and self-rated health in migrant populations that enter Canada with precarious legal status. There are four central themes related to legal status that we examine: rights and entitlements, ontological in/security, temporality, and the work of status. Using data from the Citizenship and Employment Precarity Survey (n=1,208), we examine the effects of (1) different configurations of rights and entitlements by comparing entrance status, current status, and changes in status; (2) test whether ontological insecurity, marked by experiences of migrant illegalization, has significant effects on current SRH after changes in status; (3) consider the role of chronological time on SRH; and (4) examine the impact of the work of status. Migrants who entered the country as non-status, visitors or with a temporary resident permit, regardless of their current status, have poorer health than migrants who entered as temporary foreign workers and have secure status. This is because of the ontological insecurity and work of status. Another finding is that migrants who entered the country as international students and have non-secure status have poorer health, but this remains unexplained. Finally, a change to a secure legal status has no significant effect on the health of migrants who entered Canada with non-secure status. For migrants whose entrance status provides few rights and entitlements, we may find higher levels of negative life experiences, which have compounding and long-lasting effects on their health.

Non-presenting authors: Patricia Landolt, University of Toronto

Andrew Patterson, MacEwan University

What Does Cancer Risk Have to Do with the Political Economy? A Quantitative Comparative Analysis

Within the vast literature on cancer, relatively few studies consider the role that the political economy plays in creating risk of the disease. While some find that risk is higher in wealthier societies, few studies test specific explanations for this connection. To address this gap, I offer a set of theoretical perspectives that apply to the macro (national) level and then test those empirically. The Indulgent Consumer model focuses on unhealthy lifestyles, namely, risky personal choices such as smoking or alcohol consumption. The Industrial Workhorse model emphasizes the ability of modern societies to manufacture and then widely distribute large quantities of materials, some of which are bound to be carcinogenic. The Foolish Innovator model problematizes technological advancement as the source of those materials. Globalization is what puts a society most at risk according to the International Trader model, by way of countries importing carcinogenic materials and processes from elsewhere. Lastly, the Unscrupulous Merchant model highlights the freedom of industries to distribute unhealthy products in many capitalist societies, often despite knowledge of the harms that they cause. To explore these explanations, comparative data were gathered for a large number of countries (n ≥ 116) while using a combination of measures to assess each construct. A structural equation approach was then applied. Although health-related behaviours do explain comparative cancer rates, due to low correlations unhealthy lifestyles (the Indulgent Consumer model) do not offer a coherent construct at the national level. The four other explanations appear more viable, but overlap substantially. Within the scope of this study it is difficult to say what the best explanation for comparative cancer risk may be at the national (macro-) level, apart from broader processes of economic modernization and/or liberalization. Strengths and limitations of this study are discussed.

Secil Ertorer, Canisius College

Anti-Asian Racism, Identity, and Well-being

As the theory of racial formation (Omi and Winant, 2015) states, “race” continues to matter and racism against racial and ethnic minorities still endures in racially diverse societies. The COVID-19 pandemic has proved to us that minorities, even those recognized as the “model minority” in reference to their educational, professional, and economic attainment, are prone to various forms of xenophobia and racism when there is instability and fear in society. This paper will discuss experiences of anti-Asian racism during the pandemic and explore its effects on the sense of belonging, identity, and mental health by utilizing an empirical study that employs mixed methodology with 200 Asian Americans. The study finds that experiences of racism are positively correlated with anxiety, depression, identity crises, and distress.