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Conflicting experiences of health and habitus in a poor urban neighbourhood: A Bourdieusian ethnography

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Sociology of Health & Illness

Published online on


["Sociology of Health & Illness, EarlyView. ", "\nAbstract\nAn ethnographic study of health and wellbeing was undertaken in a deprived urban neighbourhood in the UK Midlands. Drawing on Bourdieu's concepts of habitus, capital and field, we discerned three different, even conflicting, ways of understanding and acting on health: (i) older adults discussed their wellbeing in relation to the local context or field, walking the dog, helping at the community centre and visiting the off licence, (ii) young professionals and students who lived in the neighbourhood were oriented towards leisure facilities, career opportunities and supermarkets outside of the neighbourhood, disdaining local facilities and (iii) community activists and carers discussed health in terms of providing for others but not themselves. Bourdieu is frequently used in medical sociology to highlight how poor people's lifestyle is constrained by their habitus; we suggest paying more attention to its both enabling and differentiating contradictions as well as the constraints it entails. Empirically and in terms of health promotion findings suggest that supposedly healthy activities, such as going to the gym, may also be a means of rejecting the local community; similarly, older people's pottering about in the neighbourhood, which is not usually recognised as a healthy activity, may enhance wellbeing in this context.\n"]