• Sarah Henriette Biehl Wibrand
  • Thilde Løndahl Johansen
4. term, Learning and Innovative Change, Master (Master Programme)
The goal of this thesis is to study health inequality in Denmark. Research shows that there is a dominant discourse within the country, which dictates how we should live and what we should look like in order to be perceived as healthy. We are interested in understanding and explaining what meaning investments in health have on the power structures of three selected and demarcated social spaces. We chose this research question because we have experienced marked differences in the citizen’s premises for conforming to the dominant health discourse in Denmark. The thesis aims to provide insight into both the outer and inner structure, which makes up the dominant health discourse. In this sense, we were inspired by the French sociologist, anthropologist and philosopher, Pierre Bourdieu, and the thesis is grounded in his renowned methodological and theoretical work.

The theoretical approach of the thesis is constructivist structuralism or structuralist constructivism. We work with a practical epistemology since the opportunity for achieving true knowledge must be legitimized by the surroundings, as this is where the truth exists. Nothing in itself has value, before we as researchers attribute objectivity to it, and hereby make it valid.

The empirical data consist of qualitative observations and semi-structured interviews. The research study is conducted using three selected groups that each represent a constructed space. The first
space represents the upper class and the thesis’ highest positioned social space – symbolised by the ministry. The second space represents the middle class and is symbolised by the physical education
students. The third space represents the lower class and is the lowest positioned space in the study – symbolised by the unemployed.

Inspirations for the thesis’ strategic and analytical considerations came both from Bourideu and the hermeneutic circle. This means that despite us saying that we are nearing the truth without hypotheses, our brains are filled with pre-constructed objects. Based our preconceptions, we search for deeper explanations and connections both by questioning the agents’ sense of understanding and also by questioning our own understanding of this sense of comprehension. We work in a dialectical relationship between theory and empirical data, which means we develop new knowledge as theory meets data and vice versa.

The analysis is divided into three sections, which together form the answer to our research question. The first part includes an analysis of the combined amount of capital of the agents in the three spaces, which we later position in relation to one another in the social sphere. Secondly, an analysis consisting of the spaces’ legitimate health doxa is presented, followed by a comparison of the first analyses where we study how the different spaces’ investment in health affects the power dynamics. The first part sheds light on how the spaces are positioned in the social sphere, which informs the preconditions for the agents’ actions by their combined social capital and embedded bodily dispositions. From this, we can in part two extract each space’s legitimate health doxa, which again is the prerequisite for concluding each space’s investment in health and the consequences of this in part three.

We conclude that the space’s dispositions and the combined amount of capital are crucial for their understanding of health as well as their positioning in society. This positioning and understanding of what is perceived as healthy or unhealthy creates preconditions for investing in health. We conclude that the actual health discourse entails a polarising effect on society separating those that are able to embrace the health discourse and those that continue a lifestyle defined by poor diet and inactivity. The categorisation of whether you are healthy or unhealthy constitutes and constructs social categories. In this case, those at the top and those at the bottom, which is based on association or separation. These findings go against the Nordic welfare state’s shared values of health for all, which is why we in this thesis wish to draw attention to the fact that there is continued need for policy development in this area.

The thesis is concluded by a comprehensive discussion chapter, which describes the study’s strengths and limitations. Here we explain and discuss our reflexive considerations concerning the selection of and approach to the thesis topic. Overall, the chapter includes a discussion of the theoretical, methodological and analytical approach.
Publication date3 Aug 2015
Number of pages142
ID: 216197505