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Gender differences in approaches to self-management of poor sleep in later life

  • Venn, Susan
  • Meadows, Robert
  • Arber, Sara
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    In this paper we seek to understand the influence of gender on the different approaches to managing poor sleep by older men and women through the conceptual framework of existing theoretical debates on medicalization, healthicization and ‘personalization’. In-depth interviews undertaken between January and July 2008 with 62 people aged 65–95 who were experiencing poor sleep, revealed that the majority of older men and women resisted the medicalization of poor sleep, as they perceived sleep problems in later life were an inevitable consequence of ageing. However, older men and women engaged differently with the healthicization of poor sleep, with women far more likely than men to explore a range of alternative sleep remedies, such as herbal supplements, and were also much more likely than men to engage in behavioural practices to promote good sleep, and to avoid practices which prevented sleep. Women situated ‘sleep’ alongside more abstract discussions of ‘diet’ and health behaviours and drew on the discourses of the media, friends, family and their own experiences to create ‘personalized’ strategies, drawn from a paradigm of healthicization. Men, however, solely relied on the ‘body’ to indicate when sleep was needed and gauged their sleep needs largely by how they felt, and were able to function the following day.

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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Social Science & Medicine.

    Volume (Year): 79 (2013)
    Issue (Month): C ()
    Pages: 117-123

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:79:y:2013:i:c:p:117-123
    DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.09.037
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    1. Lupton, Deborah, 1997. "Consumerism, reflexivity and the medical encounter," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 45(3), pages 373-381, August.
    2. Courtenay, Will H., 2000. "Constructions of masculinity and their influence on men's well-being: a theory of gender and health," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 50(10), pages 1385-1401, May.
    3. Emanuela Bianchera & Sara Arber, 2007. "Caring and Sleep Disruption Among Women in Italy," Sociological Research Online, Sociological Research Online, vol. 12(5), pages 4.
    4. Seale, Clive & Boden, Sharon & Williams, Simon & Lowe, Pam & Steinberg, Deborah, 2007. "Media constructions of sleep and sleep disorders: A study of UK national newspapers," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 65(3), pages 418-430, August.
    5. Macintyre, Sally & Ford, Graeme & Hunt, Kate, 1999. "Do women 'over-report' morbidity? Men's and women's responses to structured prompting on a standard question on long standing illness," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 89-98, January.
    6. Busfield, Joan, 2010. "'A pill for every ill': Explaining the expansion in medicine use," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 70(6), pages 934-941, March.
    7. Mechanic, David, 1995. "Sociological dimensions of illness behavior," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 41(9), pages 1207-1216, November.
    8. Emslie, Carol & Hunt, Kate & Macintyre, Sally, 1999. "Problematizing gender, work and health: the relationship between gender, occupational grade, working conditions and minor morbidity in full-time bank employees," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 33-48, January.
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