Intersectionality and syndemics: theoretical and methodological challenges


  • Veerle Buffel: Free University of Brussels (VUB), department of sociology, Brispo (Brussels institute for social and population studies), Belgium;
  • Philippe Bos: University of Antwerp (UA), department of sociology, CPFH (Centre for Population, Family and health), Belgium;
  • Edwin Wouters: University of Antwerp (UA), department of sociology, CPFH (Centre for Population, Family and health), Belgium.


Health inequalities, clusters of diseases, individual and contextual vulnerabilities, stigma and discrimination


A syndemic refers to the presence of two or more adverse health conditions among vulnerable populations, that synergistically interact with one another while being pushed by broader contextual forces. As such, the syndemic framework isa useful tool to study the interactions between co-occurring health conditions and social factors and for rethinking the boundaries between diseases[1, 2].In contrast to the majority of studies within the field of medical sociology that focus on social inequalities in merely a single health condition, the concept of a syndemic explicitly draws attention to the clustering of diseases due to harmful social conditions. The syndemic framework has, for instance, helped our understanding of the disproportionate burden of COVID-19 among those with pre-existing health conditions and the most disadvantaged populations —both within and across countries[3].

In addition to the syndemic framework, intersectionality theory can contribute to medical sociology by improving our understanding of heterogeneities within, and overlap between social categories[4, 5]. It moves away from the predominant focus on inequalities in health between groups based on single axes of differences. While most studies still focus on socioeconomic inequalities in health by treating social categories as distinct, they fail to recognise other and especially multiple dimensions of identity and disadvantage[6].The use of an intersectional lens may gain deeper insights into structural inequalities and the power dynamics driving the (re)production of health inequalities instead of addressing inequalities simply as a result of the accumulation of independent risk factors[7].

Although both theoretical framework shave proven to be valuable in medical sociology, they face methodological complexities that make sound quantitative application that takes account of the theoretical underpinnings difficult. For instance, the syndemic theory requires advanced statistical models that simultaneously acknowledge the interactions between the multiple aspects of the syndemic and inequality at both the individual and contextual levels[8]. In line with the distinction between categorical and anti-categorical intersectional analysis, a quantitative assessment requires novel methods that allow assessing health disparities across a multitude of intersecting strata, while quantifying the heterogeneity within or overlap between these intersecting social categories[7], for instance, through the use of multilevel analysis of individual heterogeneity and discriminatory accuracy(MAIHDA)[9]. Both frameworks are therefore hitherto mainly explored through qualitative research, although the body of quantitative research is growing and looks promising.

Despite its innovative and promising potential for improving our understanding of social disparities in health and building effective health equity focused interventions for marginalized populations, integrating both frameworks for use in empirical research is challenging. Not only do both approaches have their own methodological difficulties, there are also a number of theoretical challenges in bringing both together [10-13]. Some researchers claim that the syndemic approach may benefit from incorporating an intersectional lens, by addressing different dimensions of social inequalities and paying attention to intersectional stigma and discrimination [10, 11]. Others argue that both theoretical frameworks are incompatible. In particular, because they question the utility of the syndemic framework and are concerned about the fact that syndemics may undermine the importance of intersectionality in addressing health equity [12].It is evident then, that the question of whether and how to combine both frameworks in empirical research is still an open debate[10-13]—to which we want to contribute by organizing this session.

In this session we call upon scholars to apply an intersectional and/or syndemic lens to their empirical work within health sociology. We ask them to share their theoretical and methodological challenges, in order to facilitate an interesting discussion and to stimulate young researchers to apply new techniques and integrate new theoretical perspectives(and combinations of them).


1. Singer M, et al, (2017) Syndemics and the biosocial conception of health. Lancet,389(10072):941-50.

2. Weaver LJ, Kaiser BN, (Forthcoming)Syndemics theory must take local context seriously: An example of measures forpoverty, mental health, and food insecurity. Social Science & Medicine.

3. Mendenhall E, Newfield T, Tsai AC. (2022)Syndemictheory, methods, and data. SocialScience &Medicine,295:114656.

4. Holman, D., Salway, S., Bell, A. et al.(2021)Can intersectionality help with understanding and tackling health inequalities? Perspectives of professional stakeholders. Health Res Policy Sys19:97.

5. Green MA, Evans CR, Subramanian SV. (2017) Can intersectionality theory enrich population health research? SocialScience& Medicine,178:214-216.

6. King TL, Shields M, Shakespeare T, Milner A, Kavanagh A. (2019) An intersectional approach to understandings of mental health inequalities among men with disability. SSM Popul Health, ;9:100464.

7. Wemrell, M., Mulinari, S., & Merlo, J. (2017). Intersectionality and risk for ischemic heart disease in Sweden: Categorical and anti-categorical approaches. Social Science & Medicine, 177,213–222.

8. Tsai, A. C. (2018). "Syndemics: a theory in search of data or data in search of a theory?" Social Science & Medicine 206: 117-122.

9. Evans, C. R., et al. (2020). "Multilevel versus single-level regression for the analysis of multilevel information: the case of quantitative intersectional analysis." Social Science & Medicine 245: 112499.

10. Bulled, N., Singer, M., Ostrach, B. (2022) Syndemics and intersectionality: A response commentary, Social Science & Medicine, 295, 114743,

11. Quinn, K.G. (2022) The relationship between syndemics and intersectionality: A response to the commentary by Sangaramoorthy and Benton, Social Science & Medicine, 295,113784,

12. Sangaramoorthy, T. , Benton, A.(2021)- Intersectionality and syndemics: a commentary. Social Science & Medicine 113783

13. Quinn, K. G. (2022) Applying an intersectional framework to understand syndemic conditions among young Black gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men. Social Science & Medicine. 2022;295:112779.

Beyond hospital walls: Comparative phenomenological considerations of people living with severe mental illness navigating systems of care in community contexts


  • André J van Rensburg, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa;
  • Sara Ardila-Gómez, CONICET - Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina.


People living with severe mental illness; Lived experience; Community care; Phenomenology


The deinstitutionalisation of people living with severe mental illness (SMI) have steadily increased globally since its proliferation half a century ago. Concurrently, critical failures in community-based support has been vividly illustrated across multiple countries, health systems, and population groups, and continues to be a problem with limited prospects of resolution. While the push for community-based living for people living with SMI has been adopted to improve technical health system efficiency, cost cutting, and social legitimacy, a rise in marketisation of mental health services, service rationing, and de-differentiation of services have significantly shaped the ways in which deinstitutionalisation has impacted on service users and their families or caregivers. Furthermore, the voices of people living with SMI have been largely neglected in system reforms, despite increasing priority on such inputs following critiques against Global Mental Health, and the growth of the consumer movement and mental health advocacy.

While mental healthcare and services are typically well understood within the biomedical boundaries of hospitals (at least within the conceptual limits of psychiatric diagnostics), problems persist in defining what constitutes the boundaries of care, and the intertwining of cultural dynamics and illness in community settings. Consequently, the vagaries of how people living with SMI interact with services and resources in the communities where they exist and draw meaning from, and navigate health and wellbeing on the social and economic peripheries of community living remain opaque. Further, the well-known interactions between experiences of illness, care, and culture – particularly in the contexts of an even-increasing globalisation of biomedical approaches to the treatment of severe mental illness – have not been sufficiently subjected to a comparative lens. By scrutinising the subjectivities of community living across different settings, important similarities and differences can be gleaned which will add to an important body of sociological knowledge of the relations between a persistently marginalised population and the care systems and cultures within which they exist. People living with SMI have consistently been shown to have lower life expectancies, a higher tendency for comorbid conditions, and less access to social, cultural and economic life than the general population. This is particularly aggravated by conditions of poverty and income inequality, and by public policies and systems that continue to biomedicalise mental illness.

The aim of this session will be to interrogate the lived experiences of people living with SMI in distinct country contexts. Presenters from South Africa, Argentina and Belgium will comparatively speak to the theoretical and empirical considerations of a group of illnesses that are clinically and socially poorly understood, experienced by people (especially those living in poverty) in systems that persistently deprioritise severe mental illness. Two questions will be explored: 1) How are SMIs understood across different settings? And 2) How are community care and support systems, and access to it, understood across different settings? The session ultimately will demonstrate the value of a human-centered, in-depth exploration of the subjective experiences of people living with SMI in community settings across three distinct environments, thereby contributing a to a deeper understanding of life worlds in context of poorly-resourced systems of care.

Health of informal carers in care for the aged: Status and determinants


  • Karl Krajic, Department for Sociology University of Vienna, FORBA Vienna, Austria;
  • Thomas Geisen, FHNW School of Social Work Olten, Switserland.


Welfare states in most parts of Europe rely on major contributions of informal carers in the provision of care for the aged. Culturally, support for aged persons is still considered a family duty, which implies that also financing aged care is only party publicly funded. Public financial or practical support is provided often by local communities which leads ty widely varying levels and quality of support. Expectations to provide informal care for aged persons (which may range from some social support over helping in managing more complex demands till intensive 24 hour nursing) is also directed primarily at women – especially spouses, daughters and daughters-in-law). The age group that is confronted with expectations to provide or at least organize care is considerably older than in child care, ranging between 50 and 70. In that age, the health resources of informal carers are often already reduced by chronic illness, and many are also faced with expectations to support their children in childcare. Informal carers usually also lack technical and knowledge in care provision and health which increases risks of psychosocial stress, accidents and physical exhaustion. Other than professional settings, there are also no clear regulations for safety at the (informal) workplaces. Given these health risks, many informal carers reduce paid employment or even totally withdraw from the labor market, making them more dependent on spouses incomes, reducing their old age benefits and reducing also their social integration – all of these aspects endanger the social status of the carers and can be considered a threat for their overall health status. Overall, informal care seems an area where intersectionality leads to a cumulation of negative health effects and risks for (practical) exclusion an rising for the carers. Given all these aspects, it is surprising that the health of informal carers has received rather little attention. It seems that in many countries they are primarily considered as instrumental to provide services for the aged.

Therefore, the session organizers invite papers that deal with the health situation of the carers in different parts of Europe. It will also especially address the issue of combining aged care with paid employment – which might lead to increasing stress, but also reduce negative effects especially on the social health of carers. The session will also focus on the support that informal carers get at their workplace as one of the preconditions for sustainably combining care and employment.

Gender and health prevention: Questioning, measuring, evaluating... transforming?

  • Joëlle Kivits, Université Paris Cité, France;
  • Léa Loubet, Université Paris Cité, France.


gender, health prevention, health promotion, public health, gender transformative approach, sex and gender based analysis


The integration of gender into the themes and practices of medical research is now well established internationally. However, the issue remains highly topical in public health research, especially in prevention. A "gendered" approach to public health policies, as advocated by the French National Authority for Health (Haute Autorité de Santé 2020) and integrated through international funding agencies (White et al. 2021), requires that prevention research, and particularly intervention research aimed at designing, implementing and evaluating interventions, takes gender into account in its conceptual and methodological frameworks (Tannenbaum, Greaves, et Graham 2016). While the variable of biological sex has enabled an approach and reflection about sex categories, widely used in epidemiology, gender can be understood as a system that structures behaviors, relationships and access to resources, also modulated, by class, ethnicity or sexual orientation. Questioning preventive interventions through a gendered approach and associated inequalities, leads to a better consideration of gender identities and sexual minorities in prevention research, and also allows to counter the normative dimension of public health by challenging gender norms and determinants of health. This approach opens up a new field of action for prevention programs.

This workshop will address three specific subtopics:

  1. Measuring gender in research: what conceptual and methodological innovations have been made to take gender into account in health research?
  2. Gender as an intervention variable: is gender just another intervention variable? What are its specific features?
  3. Incorporating gender into the construction of preventive interventions: how do researchers and decision-makers, in light of the knowledge about gender and health, introduce gender as a parameter in the design of preventive interventions?

The expected communication proposals for this session will draw on research in the sociology of health and science to develop a reflexive approach on these three subtopics. The session will more generally discuss the transformative power of gender-based research in terms of prevention policies.


Haute Autorité de Santé, 2020. Sexe, genre et santé - Rapport d’analyse prospective 2020. Etudes et rapports. Saint-Denis La Plaine: HAS.

Tannenbaum, Cara, Lorraine Greaves, et Ian D. Graham. 2016. « Why Sex and Gender Matter in Implementation Research ». BMC Medical Research Methodology 16(1):145. doi: 10.1186/s12874-016-0247-7.

White, Jamie, Cara Tannenbaum, Ineke Klinge, Londa Schiebinger, et Janine Clayton. 2021. « The Integration of Sex and Gender Considerations Into Biomedical Research: Lessons From International Funding Agencies ». The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 106(10):3034‑48. doi: 10.1210/clinem/dgab434.

Making impact through multistakeholder collaboration

  • Elizabeth Pollitzer, Portia, United Kingdom.


The aim of this session is to look at the bigger picture of what intersectionality and inclusion mean in health by presenting seven examples of how to use multistakeholder collaborations to help create better awareness and understanding of the societal needs and impact of research on health-related issues. The proposing organization, Portia, which was established in 2001, has been promoting research on issues of gender, intersectionality, diversity and inclusion through the Gender Summit platform for dialogue between scientists, gender scholars, policy makers and stakeholders in science endeavours. Portia created this platform in 2011 to help tackle the widespread gender bias and gaps in knowledge that promote male as the norm in study design, producing more evidence for males and men than females and women, and, also, differentiate quality of research outcomes with often worse results for women. So far, 23 GS events were held across Europe, Asia Pacific, Africa, Latin America, and North America, with 1200 speakers and 9000 participants. In this session, we bring together some of the organizations involved in advancing the GS mission that have programmes involving multiple stakeholders in efforts involving issues of intersectionality and inclusion in research on health.

  • Advancing Innovation Opportunities for Women’s Health, NIH/Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, USA
  • The Lancet Countdown on the Impact of Climate Change on Health, UCL, UK
  • The Lancet–SIGHT Commission on peaceful societies through health and gender equality, The Lancet, UK
  • Global Health 50/50 initiative to advance action and accountability for gender equality in global health, UCL, UK
  • Diversity Minimal Item Set (DiMIS) for routine data collection in empirical studies to contribute to closing the diversity and gender data gap, Charite, Germany.
  • Integrating gender and intersectionality in Doctoral Training on Human Health, FRQNT, Canada
  • Prioritisation of Policy for Gendered Innovations in health-related areas, GISTeR, South Korea

Understanding antimicrobial resistance through an intersectional approach


  • Ana Patrícia Hilário, Instituto de Ciências Sociais, Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal;
  • Alice Scavarda, Università di Torino, Italy;
  • Jaroslava Marhankova, Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic.


antimicrobial resistance, intersectionality, antibiotic use.


Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is widely acknowledged as one of the top global public health threats. WHO recently reported that it is estimated that bacterial AMR was directly responsible for 1.27 million global deaths in 2019 and contributed to 4.95 million deaths. The misuse and overuse of antibiotics in humans, animals and plants are the main drivers in the development of drug-resistant pathogens. Although AMR is a widespread phenomenon across the Globe, infection management and antibiotic decision-making is influenced by social, cultural, historical, economic, and political factors.  Nevertheless, to date very few studies have provided evidence on how certain social aspects such as gender, ethnicity, age, and social class intersect in the experience of antibiotic prescribing and use at a local and global scale. Intersectionality may help scholars and researchers in the field of health and medical sociology to better understand how certain populations are more vulnerable to AMR. Whereas research on AMR is well established, the impact of intersectionality to antibiotic resistance exposure and transmission has not been sufficiently explored. The current session intends to contribute to advance our knowledge on this matter by offering a space for discussing AMR using intersectionality as critical lens. Therefore, we invite contributions, whether theoretical or empirical, that privilege the following themes:

  1. how gender, ethnicity, age, and social class impact on medical decision making over antibiotic prescription;
  2. how antibiotic misuse and overuse may be constrained by gender, ethnicity, age and social class;
  3. how these socio-cultural aspects constrain individual exposure and transmission of antibiotic resistance;
  4. how people with different socio-cultural backgrounds understand AMR; 
  5. the strengths and pitfalls of applying intersectionality to the One Health approach to AMR.

Studying (non-)participation in health research: experiences, research and theories


  • Carla Rodrigues, Department of Sociology, Univeristy of Amsterdam, The Netherlands; 
  • Soely Mandrone, Department of Sociology, Univeristy of Amsterdam, The Netherlands; 
  • Christian Bröer, Department of Sociology, Univeristy of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


research (non-)participation; health research; inclusion


Recruiting and engaging citizens in health research is often a challenging process. This is further compounded by the growing interest in longitudinal studies, and by efforts to overcome traditional sample biases and attempts to include what is often referred to as "under-represented populations”. Although there is an increasing body of literature on health research participation and strategies for engaging specific population segments, theoretical insights into the (micro-sociological) processes of participation and, particularly, nonparticipation remain limited.

Within the context of a recently started large interdisciplinary consortium that aims to conduct longitudinal and inclusive research into household practices, the microbiome and metabolic health, we start by studying the social and political meanings of (non-)participation. By considering research participation as a social interaction between citizens, researchers and institutions, we aim to analyze the micro processes involved in participating in health research. Therefore, in this session, we want to bring together researchers who have experiences with, or have conducted research on, (non-)participation in health research.

More specifically, we are seeking three main types of contributions:

  1. Descriptions of and reflections on experiences with (non-)participation in research you have been running;
  2. Outcomes of research on (non-)participation you have been doing;
  3. Theoretical insights on (non-)participation in health research.

Scholars are furthermore encouraged to reflect on how participation, or the lack thereof, may be constrained or exacerbated by specific study designs, recruitment strategies and approaches, and the institutions involved in a research project. How does the setup of a research project affect potential participants’ perceptions of entitlement and trust? How might the pursuit of diversity and inclusivity, along with the associated processes of framing and categorisation, in themselves be a source of exclusion or a reason for non-participation? By adopting a micro-sociological perspective and drawing on insights from our ongoing study, we aim to foster a dialogue about theoretical lenses and empirical understanding of processes of participation.

Life course perspectives on health

  • Bram Vanhoutte, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium.


lifecourse , biosocial, cohorts


The life-course approach to health and well-being builds on the idea that all stages of a person’s life are intricately intertwined with each other, with the lives of others born in the same period, and with the lives of past and future generations. Taking a longitudinal perspective, life course studies allow to illustrate that the social becomes biological over time, as life gets under your skin. Favouring the study of fundamental causes in the development of health inequalities over time, the life course approach emphasises accumulation of (dis)advantages over the life course as a key perspective to understand the heterogeneity in health outcomes. By separating age from cohort effects, differences between cohorts at a given age become evident, and societal evolutions over time are expressed in concrete health outcomes.

This session, organised by the interdisciplinary health group of the Society of Longitudinal and Life Course Studies, wants to showcase the richness of research by its affiliates centred on these key topics: the influence of social transitions on biological outcomes, cumulative disadvantage over the life course, and cohort effects on health.

Understanding and Modeling Accumulation of Health Risks over the Life Course


  • Malgorzata (Gosia) Mikucka, Universität Mannheim, Germany;
  • Oliver Arránz Becker, Universität Halle, Germany;
  • Christof Wolf, GESIS – Leibniz-Institut für Sozialwissenschaften & Universität Mannheim, Germany.


Social position and access to resources play a crucial role in determining the health risks individuals face throughout their lives. Researchers use various theories to understand how these factors affect health over time. Some approaches focus on trajectories. In particular, the Cumulative Advantage/Disadvantage (CAD) theory (Dannefer, 2003, 2020), proposes that early disadvantages or advantages set individuals on specific life pathways. Those with early advantages tend to continue benefiting, while those facing early disadvantages may accumulate health threats. This process can lead to the exacerbation of small early differences over time. Other conceptualizations focus on cumulative exposures or durations. Specifically, the accumulation of risk model (Ben-Shlomo, 2002; Lynch & Smith, 2005) posits that health risk factors gradually build up over the course of a lifetime. In a basic dose-response model, health damage increases with the duration and/or number of detrimental exposures. A related concept of “chains of risk” stresses that accumulation over the life course may happen when one adverse event leads to another. Finally, the risk clustering model recognizes that different forms of disadvantage may cluster together and exacerbate the negative health effects, highlighting the combined consequences of multiple disadvantages. In health sociology, various empirical studies draw upon the notion of accumulating risks or disadvantages. For example, the hypothesis that marriage positively affects the health of spouses (Mikucka, Arránz Becker, & Wolf, 2021) is grounded in the belief that a stable relationship provides economic, social, and psychological resources which may buffer against health risks. However, the beneficial effects do not manifest immediately; rather, they become evident in the long run, akin to the gradual accumulation of interests in a savings account. Another example are health consequences of prolonged unemployment. Such cumulative processes may take different forms. Negative health effects may intensify with the duration of unemployment (duration effects) or may diminish over time due to habituation or adaptation. Similarly, the ‘healing process’ upon re-entry into employment may be complete or partial, and it may be immediate or develop gradually over time. While the concept of risk accumulation holds intuitive appeal, current research has yet to thoroughly explore the underlying theoretical mechanisms and to discuss the ways to specify cumulative effects in statistical models. Does disadvantage or health risk accumulate at a constant rate, or do they grow exponentially? If an adverse situation ends, does the disadvantage persist or gradually wear off? Is the speed of health improvement the same as the speed of health decline? Does disadvantage harm health more than advantage improves it, as suggested by the framing effect (Kahneman & Tversky, 1984)?

This session aims to fuel the debate on health risks’ accumulation over the life course. We encourage contributions that not only enhance the theoretical understanding of risk accumulation but also identify and test mechanisms through which cumulative effects shape health. We also seek proposals that specify cumulative effects in longitudinal panel models.
Potential topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Conceptual papers that discuss different types of cumulative effects on health and explore plausible mechanisms.
  • Analytical approaches for studying health trajectories in the population and specific social groups over time.
  • Critical investigations into methodological challenges associated with modeling the accumulation of health risks.
  • Longitudinal studies that explore the immediate and long-term health effects of experiences and resources, or model the effects of accumulated exposures.
  • Studies that discuss and test causal channels in cumulative processes.
  • Analyses of the (cumulative) mutual effects of social characteristics among group members on each other's health outcomes, as seen in marital couples.


Ben-Shlomo, Y. (2002). A life course approach to chronic disease epidemiology: Conceptual models, empirical challenges and interdisciplinary perspectives. International Journal of Epidemiology, 31(2), 285–293. doi:10.1093/ije/31.2.285

Dannefer, D. (2003). Cumulative Advantage/Disadvantage and the Life Course: Cross-Fertilizing Age and Social Science Theory. The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 58(6), S327–S337. doi:10.1093/geronb/58.6.S327

Dannefer, D. (2020). Systemic and Reflexive: Foundations of Cumulative Dis/Advantage and Life-Course Processes. The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, 75(6), 1249–1263. doi:10.1093/geronb/gby118

Kahneman, D., & Tversky, A. (1984). Choices, values, and frames. American Psychologist, 39(4), 341–350. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.39.4.341

Lynch, J., & Smith, G. D. (2005). A Life Course Approach to Chronic Disease Epidemiology. Annual Review of Public Health, 26(1), 1–35. doi: 10.1146/annurev.publhealth.26.021304.144505

Mikucka, M., Arránz Becker, O., & Wolf, C. (2021). Revisiting marital health protection: Intraindividual health dynamics around transition to legal marriage. Journal of Marriage and Family, 83(5), 1439–1459. doi: 10.1111/jomf.12784

Health Disparities: Exploring the Reciprocal Relationship between Health and Social Inequality.

  • Malgorzata (Gosia) Mikucka, Universität Mannheim, Germany;
  • Oliver Arránz Becker, Universität Halle, Germany;
  • Christof Wolf, GESIS – Leibniz-Institut für Sozialwissenschaften & Universität Mannheim, Germany.

The income inequality hypothesis postulates that income inequalities erode health. Despite decades of research, a consensus on whether this hypothesis holds remains elusive. Some literature reviews find compelling evidence linking income inequality to negative health outcomes (e.g., Kondo et al., 2009; Pickett & Wilkinson, 2015), while others dismiss these claims for lacking empirical support (e.g., Deaton, 2003; Monheit, 2022). Differences in conclusions partly arise from methodological variations among studies, including the focus on individual versus population-level health measures, using various data types (cross-sectional, repeated cross-sections, or longitudinal data), different modeling strategies, and many others. However, the implications of these factors is still only partly understood. The field also exhibits notable research gaps. Despite increasing data availability and the potential for crossnational approaches, individual-level analyses of longitudinal data remain scarce (Hildebrand & Van Kerm, 2009). Mechanisms, including the role of time lags (Truesdale & Jencks, 2016) and subjective perceptions of inequality (Gugushvili, Reeves, & Jarosz, 2020), are understood only partly, and we know relatively little about less-explored forms of inequality, such as wealth or gender inequality.

On the flip side, the relationship between inequality and health runs also in the opposite direction: health is among factors shaping social inequalities. Poor health can exacerbate social disparities by impacting educational, employment, and economic opportunities, and hindering the formation of social networks. The Cumulative Advantage/Disadvantage (CAD) theory (Dannefer, 2003, 2020) posits that early advantages or disadvantages set individuals on specific life trajectories. Those with early advantages tend to persistently benefit, while those encountering early disadvantages may accumulate deprivation and hardship. This process can result in the amplification of minor differences in youth over time, leading to significant disparities in later years, aligning with the proverbial 'Matthew Effect' (Merton, 1968). Plausibly, health is among the factors contributing to the accumulation of (dis)advantage, shaping inequality between groups and in the overall population.

This session aims to foster debate on the reciprocal relationship between health (preferably defined as an individual-level measure) and social inequalities. Potential topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Theoretical frameworks linking changes in health inequalities, intracohort differentiation, and period effects (e.g., external shocks).
  • Analytical approaches to examine diverging health trajectories, both within the overall population and across specific social groups over time.
  • Research exploring how health influences social and economic trajectories (e.g., educational attainment or wealth accumulation) and the implications of these processes for social inequalities.
  • Longitudinal analyses that investigate the impact of income inequality on health which may, for instance, incorporate the life course perspective, explore the role of time lags, or adopt a cross-national comparative approach.
  • Exploration and testing of plausible mediating mechanisms, such as investigations into subjectively perceived versus objective inequality, or the role of institutional settings.

Dannefer, D. (2003). Cumulative Advantage/Disadvantage and the Life Course: Cross-
Fertilizing Age and Social Science Theory. The Journals of Gerontology Series B: 
Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 58(6), S327–S337. doi: 10.1093/geronb/58.6.S327

Dannefer, D. (2020). Systemic and Reflexive: Foundations of Cumulative Dis/Advantage and Life-Course Processes. The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, 75(6), 1249–1263. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gby118

Deaton, A. (2003). Health, Inequality, and Economic Development. Journal of Economic Literature, 41(1), 113–158. doi: 10.1257/jel.41.1.113

Gugushvili, A., Reeves, A., & Jarosz, E. (2020). How do perceived changes in inequality affect health? Health & Place, 62, 102276. doi: 10.1016/j.healthplace.2019.102276

Hildebrand, V., & Van Kerm, P. (2009). Income inequality and self-rated health status: Evidence from the european community household panel. Demography, 46(4), 805–825. doi: 10.1353/dem.0.0071

Kondo, N., Sembajwe, G., Kawachi, I., van Dam, R. M., Subramanian, S. V., & Yamagata, Z. (2009). Income inequality, mortality, and self rated health: Meta-analysis of multilevel studies. BMJ, 339(nov10 2), b4471–b4471. doi: 10.1136/bmj.b4471

Merton, R. K. (1968). The Matthew Effect in Science: The reward and communication
systems of science are considered. Science, 159(3810), 56–63. doi: 10.1126/science.159.3810.56

Monheit, A. C. (2022). Perspectives article: Income inequality, health, and household welfare. Review of Economics of the Household, 20(1), 37–55. doi: 10.1007/s11150-021-09589-0

Pickett, K. E., & Wilkinson, R. G. (2015). Income inequality and health: A causal review. Social Science & Medicine, 128, 316–326. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.12.031

Truesdale, B. C., & Jencks, C. (2016). The Health Effects of Income Inequality: Averages and Disparities. Annual Review of Public Health, 37(1), 413–430. doi: 10.1146/annurevpublhealth-032315-021606

Conceptualization and measurement of race and ethnicity in Europe: reflections about data collection for an intersectional analysis of health


  • Yolanda González-Rábago, University of the Basque Country UPV/EHU, Spain;
  • Daniel La Parra, University of Alicante, Spain;
  • Constanza Jacques-Aviñó, IDIAP Jordi Gol, Spain.


race, ethnicity, data, intersectional, health inequalities


In an increasingly diverse Europe, the incorporation of the categories of race and/or ethnicity for the study of population health and health inequalities with an intersectional perspective is becoming essential. Although to date the vast majority of health studies in Europe use people's immigration status (measured as birthplace, nationality, country of origin, etc.) as a proxy for racial and ethnic diversity, this approach is increasingly ineffective for understanding the health and access to healthcare of racially diverse societies.

An intersectional analysis of population health that seeks to consider race and/or ethnicity (as well as gender, social class and other forms of social stratification) as an axis of social inequality requires reliable and validated data. However, so far the measurement of race and ethnicity is scarce in the European context, especially in quantitative health studies. This has its origin in historical issues that have socially made invisible the relevance of this characteristic of the population for the understanding of any social phenomena and, specifically, for the analysis of health inequalities as well as the effect of racism in health. Nowadays, it is time to overcome this lack of data.

In other contexts, such as the United States and the United Kingdom, and more recently in Latin America, racial and ethnic information on the population is part of the tradition of collecting data, especially quantitative data, through population registries and surveys. However, the translation of the measurement of race and ethnicity from these social contexts to Europe cannot be done directly. Compared to those contexts, in Europe, there are differentiating elements of the conceptualization, historical trajectory and social meanings given to racialized people and, therefore, it is essential to reflect on the different ways of identifying these populations, collecting information and deepen the knowledge of health and social inequalities in health and in access to healthcare that affect these social groups.

The following topics could be covered in the session:

  • Reflections on the concepts of race and ethnicity in Europe and their relationship with the health and access to healthcare of the population.
  • Race/ethnicity measurement experiences in Europe in the field of health.
  • Ways to operationalize race/ethnicity for quantitative health data collection.
  • Treatment of race/ethnicity in qualitative health research.

Comparative approaches in analysing social inequalities in health – universal patterns, cross-country differences and societal change.

  • Hanno Hoven, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Germany and Centre for Global Health Inequalities research (CHAIN) at NTNU, Trondheim, Norway;
  • Insa Backhaus, Centre for Global Health Inequalities research (CHAIN) at NTNU, Trondheim, Norway;
  • Mirza Balaj, Centre for Global Health Inequalities research (CHAIN) at NTNU, Trondheim, Norway;
  • Terje Andreas Eikemo, Centre for Global Health Inequalities research (CHAIN) at NTNU, Trondheim, Norway.


intersectionality, welfare state, comparative research, social inequalities in health


Social epidemiological research has consistently shown social inequalities in health, persisting for decades in different countries and welfare states. In recent years the question if these social inequalities follow universal patterns or tend to vary between countries and welfare states over time has gained more and more attention in medical sociology and social epidemiological research. In this session we discuss comparative research on the associations between social inequalities and health, both from a cross-country and trend perspective, as well as research summarising the international knowledge on specific social determinants of health in systematic review approaches.

We welcome in particular intersectional approaches acknowledging that different social determinants of health do not stand alone but intersect with each other, resulting in cumulative disadvantages. While scientific knowledge on intersectionality has significantly expanded recently, comparative research is still comparatively scarce. This includes, first, cross-country differences in intersectional social inequalities: the prevalence of intersectional inequalities throughout European countries, the association between intersectional social disadvantage and health in different countries and welfare states, and the impact of specific social and health policies on the association between intersectional determinants and health. Second, little is known on trends in intersectional social inequalities and on the impact of societal changes on the association between intersectional social inequalities and health. Research is scarce on the impact of increasing inequalities in income and wealth, grown precarious labour market attachments, migration policies, pandemic management measures during the Covid-19 pandemic, and other larger societal trends and policies.

Presenters are invited to discuss inequalities in different European countries, and the role of welfare states and/or specific social and health-related policies. We invite comparative analyses comparing specific countries as well as approaches considering a variety of different countries (e.g., within a multi-level framework) and systematic reviews presenting what is known on specific social determinants of health. We encourage to submit papers on different social determinants of health, including – but not limited to – papers discussing intersectional social inequalities. We welcome qualitative and quantitative papers as well as theoretical oriented abstracts.


  • Melissa Ceuterick, Ghent University, Belgium; 
  •  Ioana Pop, Tilburg University, The Netherlands.

pharmaceuticalisation, pharmaceuticals, medication use, neurochemical selves


This conference session aims to explore the intricate tapestry of the sociology of medication use and pharmaceuticals, delving into the intersecting realms of pharmaceuticalisation across all levels. Building on the pharmaceuticalisation framework of British medical sociologist Simon Williams and colleagues, we focus this session on the diverse aspects of pharmaceuticalisation, i.e. (1) the reconfiguration of health ‘problems’ as having a pharmaceutical solution; (2) changing forms of governance; (3) mediation -or the role of social and classic media in shaping ideas about pharmaceuticals; (4) the creation of new techno-social identities (like Rose’s neurochemical selves) and the mobilisation of patient or consumer groups around drugs; (5) the use of pharmaceuticals for non-medical purposes and the creation of new consumer markets; and, finally, (6) drug innovation and the colonisation of health futures (looking into societal expectations about pharmaceutical breakthroughs and how these are contingent, contested and fought over). We interpret pharmaceuticals in a broad sense, encompassing also the use of generally illegal substances for health purposes like microdosing of psychedelics and the use of medicinal cannabis to name but a few.

Within the realm of macrolevel processes, this session welcomes contributions that study overarching societal and institutional trends that drive pharmaceuticalisation as well as contributions that explore the implications of pharmaceuticalisation, medicalisation and commodification trends on the broad landscape of pharmaceutical practices. These can be investigations into the evolving role of pharmaceutical industries, the impact of health policies, the influence of pharmaceutical companies on medical professionals, research institutions, regulatory bodies and critical reflections about the ethical questions this raises.

In addition, we envisage contributions that uncover organisational intricacies that mediate between broader societal trends and the microlevel experiences of individuals and communities in their engagement with medication and pharmaceuticals. Topics of interest include for example the roles of healthcare institutions, formulary committees, and insurance policies in shaping patterns of pharmaceutical use. We encourage presentations about the interactions between healthcare professionals and patients, the formation of treatment protocols about medication within clinical settings, and prescribing practices as social acts.

Finally, we welcome presentations that focus on how individuals and communities engage with pharmaceuticals, both in- and outside of the medical realm. These can be contributions that unpack the micro processes exploring the multifaceted nature of individual health-seeking, and the social construction of medication narratives, stigma in relation to medication use, or the use of enhancement

drugs to name but a few. Here, the focus extends to the intersection of cultural beliefs, social norms, and personal experiences that influence the use of pharmaceuticals in the broadest sense of the word.

We welcome both critical and theoretical contributions that aim to expand current sociological perspectives on medication use and the proliferation of pharmaceuticalisation processes, as well as empirical studies. Innovative research methods to study medication use from a sociological perspective are also welcome.

Intersectional Perspectives on Family Health


  • Mine Kühn, Department of Sociology, University of Tilburg, The Netherlands;
  • Nadine Reibling, Department of Health Sciences, Fulda University of Applied Sciences, Germany.


family health, intersectionality, inequalities, life course


Families, with their diverse structures and dynamics, play an important role in shaping the physical and mental health of their members. They are crucial to individual’s well-being, acting as sources of social support, intense conflict, and daily stress. The study of family health encompasses various perspectives on how families impact health, illness, and healing. This includes examining the effect of life course transitions (e.g., marriage, separation, parenthood) on health, understanding the health implications of the day-to-day enactment of family life (“Doing Family”), and exploring the interplay between genetic and social dimensions in family relationships that determine health outcomes.

The increasing diversity within families emphasize the need for an intersectional approach to contextualize our understanding of family health. This perspective considers intersections of race, immigration background, gender, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, etc., and recognizes how these factors shape individual’s health. These intersectional inequalities are deeply rooted in the societal and institutional power structures which vary significantly worldwide and within Europe. This underscores the importance of cross-national comparisons and discussions of an intersectional analysis of family health.

This session aims to bring together scholars with diverse theoretical, methodological, and country backgrounds to explore, analyze, and discuss the intersectional dimensions of family health. We invite innovative contributions that address gaps in existing literature and provide new insights of how various social identities shape health experiences within familial structures.

Following the Brain: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Care Practices, Technoscientific Innovations, and Media Discourses


  • Barbara Morsello, University of Padova, Italy;
  • Francesco Miele, University of Trieste, Italy.


brain disease; neurotechnology; imaginaries; innovation


In the dynamic convergence of health, technoscience, and society, the human brain emerges as a pivotal locus, propelling transformative strides in our understanding and management of brain diseases. This call for papers seeks empirical and theoretical insights to unravel the intricate layers of the brain, transcending its conventional status as a mere organ within the human body.

Following the brain, we aim to illuminate its role as a central hub for technoscientific innovation, ethical deliberations, and the complex challenges entwined with the advent of artificial intelligence.

We invite contributions that explore the nuanced intersection of novel practices and representations emerging around the technological and scientific innovations aimed at enhancing, caring and/or curing human brain (e.g., research for exploring neurological diseases and their effects, Deep Brain Stimulations and intelligent neuroprothesis, brain biomarkers, stem cell therapies, gene therapies, AI based telecare).

From the vantage point of Science and Technology Studies and Medical Sociology, we invite contributions that critically scrutinize the relationships between brain, technoscientific innovation and ethics in the field of neurological conditions (i.e., Parkinson Disease; Alzheimer disease; Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and so on) and disorders (i.e., Autism spectrum disorder and other forms of neurodiversity) also in light of the influential role of media discourses and social representations of the brain and related conditions and/or technoscientific innovations concerning brain.

Specifically, we encourage contributions on three main areas of interests:

Intersectionality in Care Practices.

  • Social, cultural, and economic factors influencing care practices for individuals dealing with neurological conditions and disorders;
  • The dynamic interplay of technology in care practices and its impact on equity and accessibility.
  • The development and the evaluation of inclusive interventions for neurological conditions and brain disease,

Brain and Future techno-scientific Innovations.

  • Ethical implications of advancements like brain-machine interfaces, neuro-enhancement, and AI integrated in neurological interventions;
  • Imaginaries and the practices emerging around these innovations through the lens of medical sociology and STS;
  • Power dynamics and inequalities that influence the transformative changes in technoscientific innovation applied to brain.

Media Discourses on the Brain.

  • Technoscientific innovation concerning the brain and the activation of promissory discourses in the media sphere, possibly shaping future practices of care;
  • How media shapes societal understanding of neurodiversity and its relationships with technoscientific innovation.

We extend the invitation to researchers employing diverse methodologies, including qualitative and quantitative approaches, case studies, and interdisciplinary perspectives. In this way, we aim to build a comprehensive understanding of the complex interrelationships between brain, disease, technology, subjectivity, and the media sphere.

Inequalities in Cognitive Functioning: Intersectional and International Perspectives

  • Damiano Uccheddu, UC Louvain, Belgium;
  • Giulia Tattarini, University of Hamburg, Germany;
  • Ariane Bertogg, University of Konstanz, Germany.


Cognitive Functioning, Comparative Sociology, Life course, Social Stratification of Health


Maintaining cognitive functioning in later life is a critical public health priority (Livingston et al., 2020; Rossor and Knapp, 2015). About 55 million people globally suffer from severe cognitive impairment – a number projected to triple by 2050 – resulting in higher disability, dependency, mortality, and healthcare costs (WHO, 2019).

Women, ethnic minorities, and migrants face disproportionate cognitive impairment (Prince et al., 2015; 2019; Wu et al., 2016; Xu et al., 2017). These gaps may stem from socioeconomic status (SES) differences, like those between genders (Ford et al., 2021; Ford and Leist, 2021) and native populations and migrants (Xu et al., 2018). The welfare state’s redistribution of socioeconomic resources (e.g., education, income, wealth, housing) – fundamental for health (Phelan et al., 2010) – can buffer gender, race/ethnicity, and migration inequalities in cognitive impairment (Beckfield et al., 2015). Consistently, welfare regimes influence the links between SES and cognitive functioning (Orsholits et al., 2022).

The proposed session focuses on contributions guided by the life course approach (Cullati et al., 2018) and the intersectionality of gender, migration background, race/ethnicity, SES, and the welfare state in shaping cognitive functioning (Holman and Walker, 2021). We welcome studies examining how these social and economic factors and institutional mechanisms shape cognitive health in older adults. Priority will be given to studies investigating how SES impacts different cognitive domains (e.g., memory, verbal fluency, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease) across life stages, considering intersections with gender, migration status, and race/ethnicity within diverse institutional macro-level contexts.

The proposed session will cover various subtopics, including but not limited to:

  • Intersectional differences in cognitive health trajectories: We invite contributions focusing on the heterogeneity in vulnerability and resilience concerning cognitive health in later life. Contributions should examine how the relationship between ageing and cognitive health trajectories is shaped by SES, gender, race/ethnicity, and migration background, and how this heterogeneity is rooted in the unequal accumulation of “reserves” (Cullati et al., 2018) among different social groups.
  • Life course biographies and cognitive health: We encourage submissions focusing on how different social roles occupied over the life course – such as being a paid worker, a partner, or a parent – contribute to shaping cognitive functioning (Machů et al., 2022). We welcome contributions analysing how the impact of such roles on cognition is moderated by other life experiences, such as those associated with migration status (e.g., duration of stay) and potentially differing by gender (e.g., age during family formation, caregiving experiences).
  • Lifetime accumulation of socioeconomic risk factors and resources: This subtopic focuses on gendered and racial/ethnic disparities in the association between cumulative SES (dis)advantages and cognitive functioning (Lyu and Burr, 2016). We seek studies investigating group-specific cognitive reserve accumulation across the life course and its unequal consequences on cognitive health among diverse social strata. Submissions examining the long-term impact of these group-specific (dis)advantages on cognitive health are highly encouraged.
  • Welfare institutions and public services: We welcome contributions focusing on the role of institutional mechanisms incorporated in the welfare state’s functioning (e.g., interactions between family, labour market, and state; education, healthcare, and systems; long-term care arrangements; citizenship and integration systems; incarceration; etc.) in shaping the accumulation of reserves and associated gender patterns (Orsholits et al., 2022). These contributions should discuss how these mechanisms interact with life course events and processes to produce complex patterns of cumulative (dis)advantage in cognitive health.
  • Social change and societal crises: The past two decades have seen a myriad of economic, societal, and health crises – including the Great Recession (2007-2009), international migrations, the COVID-19 pandemic, and disruptive global climate change – which have had detrimental consequences on many affected adults’ resources and well-being. The ongoing digitalization and transformation of workplaces and family dynamics further present risk factors for social integration, but also learning potentials across the life course. We welcome contributions which aim at assessing the cognitive impact of such crises and transformations (Liu et al., 2021).

We especially encourage contributions that advance theoretical development, employ rigorous methodologies (both quantitative and qualitative), offer innovative insights, and assess cognitive functioning within the domains of cognitive/brain health and medical sociology. Integration of other relevant inequality axes (e.g., disability, gender identity and sexuality, linguistic diversity, nationality, religion) is also encouraged.


Beckfield, J., Bambra, C., Eikemo, T.A., Huijts, T., McNamara, C., Wendt, C., 2015. An institutional theory of welfare state effects on the distribution of population health. Soc. Theory Health 13, 227–244.

Cullati, S., Kliegel, M., Widmer, E., 2018. Development of reserves over the life course and onset of vulnerability in later life. Nat. Hum. Behav. 2, 551–558.

Ford, K.J., Batty, G.D., Leist, A.K., 2021. Examining gender differentials in the association of low control work with cognitive performance in older workers. Eur. J. Public Health 31, 174–180.

Ford, K.J., Leist, A.K., 2021. Returns to Educational and Occupational Attainment in Cognitive Performance for Middle-Aged South Korean Men and Women. Gerontol. Geriatr. Med. 7, 233372142110043.

Holman, D., Walker, A., 2021. Understanding unequal ageing: towards a synthesis of intersectionality and life course analyses. Eur. J. Ageing 18, 239–255.

Liu, K.Y., Howard, R., Banerjee, S., Comas-Herrera, A., Goddard, J., Knapp, M., Livingston, G., Manthorpe, J., O’Brien, J.T., Paterson, R.W., Robinson, L., Rossor, M., Rowe, J.B., Sharp, D.J., Sommerlad, A., Suárez-González, A., Burns, A., 2021. Dementia wellbeing and COVID-19: Review and expert consensus on current research and knowledge gaps. Int. J. Geriatr. Psychiatry 36, 1597–1639.

Livingston, G., Huntley, J., Sommerlad, A., Ames, D., Ballard, C., Banerjee, S., Brayne, C., Burns, A., Cohen-Mansfield, J., Cooper, C., Costafreda, S.G., Dias, A., Fox, N., Gitlin, L.N., Howard, R., Kales, H.C., Kivimäki, M., Larson, E.B., Ogunniyi, A., Orgeta, V., Ritchie, K., Rockwood, K., Sampson, E.L., Samus, Q., Schneider, L.S., Selbæk, G., Teri, L., Mukadam, N., 2020. Dementia prevention, intervention, and care: 2020 report of the Lancet Commission. The Lancet 396, 413–446.

Lyu, J., Burr, J.A., 2016. Socioeconomic Status Across the Life Course and Cognitive Function Among Older Adults: An Examination of the Latency, Pathways, and Accumulation Hypotheses. J. Aging Health 28, 40–67.

Machů, V., Arends, I., Veldman, K., Bültmann, U., 2022. Work-family trajectories and health: A systematic review. Adv. Life Course Res. 52, 100466.

Orsholits, D., Cullati, S., Ghisletta, P., Aartsen, M.J., Oris, M., Studer, M., Maurer, J., Perna, L., Gouveia, É.R., Gouveia, B.R., Marques, A., Peralta, M., Marconcin, P., Kliegel, M., Ihle, A., 2022. How Welfare Regimes Moderate the Associations Between Cognitive Aging, Education, and Occupation. J. Gerontol. Ser. B 77, 1615–1624.

Phelan, J.C., Link, B.G., Tehranifar, P., 2010. Social Conditions as Fundamental Causes of Health Inequalities: Theory, Evidence, and Policy Implications. J. Health Soc. Behav. 51, S28–S40.

Prince, M., Wimo, A., Guerchet, M., Ali, G.-C., Wu, Y.-T., Prina, M., 2015. World Alzheimer Report 2015. The Global Impact of Dementia. An Analysis of Prevalence, Incidence, Cost and Trends.

Rossor, M., Knapp, M., 2015. Can we model a cognitive footprint of interventions and policies to help to meet the global challenge of dementia? The Lancet 386, 1008–1010.

World Health Organization (WHO), 2019. Risk reduction of cognitive decline and dementia: WHO guidelines. World Health Organization, Geneva.

Wu, Y.-T., Fratiglioni, L., Matthews, F.E., Lobo, A., Breteler, M.M.B., Skoog, I., Brayne, C., 2016. Dementia in western Europe: epidemiological evidence and implications for policy making. Lancet Neurol. 15, 116–124.

Xu, H., Vorderstrasse, A.A., McConnell, E.S., Dupre, M.E., Østbye, T., Wu, B., 2018. Migration and cognitive function: a conceptual framework for Global Health Research. Glob. Health Res. Policy 3, 34.

Xu, H., Zhang, Y., Wu, B., 2017. Association between migration and cognitive status among middle-aged and older adults: a systematic review. BMC Geriatr. 17, 184.

Intersectional Groups Vulnerable to Loneliness and Social Isolation in Europe


  • Keming Yang, University of Durham, United Kingdom.


loneliness, intersectionality, social isolation, social cohesion


Loneliness has been recognized as a serious global issue of public health. The WHO launched a new commission on loneliness in November 2023. Both the UK and the Japanese governments have set up a Ministry for Loneliness, and the US Surgeon General Dr Vivek Murthy raised an alarm about the devastating impact of the ‘epidemic of loneliness’ in the United States. From the sociological perspectives, this ‘epidemic’, which has been studied so far mostly from the psychological and individual perspectives, reflects a much deeper problem of social isolation, alienation, or disintegration. The aim of this session is to identify the intersectional groups who are most vulnerable to loneliness and social isolation in Europe and to explore the mechanisms that put them into such vulnerable position, so that policymakers, practitioners and the society at large could offer effective support. The intersectional attributes include but not are not limited to age, sex or gender, sexuality, race and ethnicity, nationality and immigration, socio-economic status (SES) or class, disability, and others. Both theoretical reflections on the meaning of intersectionality in relation to loneliness, social isolation, and social disintegration and empirical studies that depict the profile of any intersectional groups vulnerable to loneliness and social isolation are welcome. Contributors to this session are welcome to expand on some of the chair’s recent works on this topic (Loneliness: A Social Problem, Analysing Intersectionality, and ‘Loneliness and Intersectionality’). We welcome contributions from all academic disciplines, employing all theoretical or methodological approaches as long as they address the session’s key concern with loneliness, social isolation and intersectionality in Europe.

Reconsidering digital ageing: boundaries, transformations and meanings


  • Francesco Miele, University of Trieste, Italy;
  • Veronica Moretti, University of Bologna, Italy.


Over the last few decades, the broad and interdisciplinary field of age studies has driven scholarly attention toward considerations of demographic ageing as an opportunity for the development of technological innovations aimed at ensuring the health and well-being of older people. Several innovative machines have emerged with the aim of improving the health and well-being of senior citizens, including complex remote monitoring systems, self-tracking devices, ambient assisted living environments and, finally, AI driven technologies aimed at automatizing some phases of care processes (es. diagnosis, treatment, monitoring and prediction of disease progress). The so-called grand challenge of ageing has mainly been addressed through an intervention logic whereby users are perceived as passive «targets» of techno-scientific instruments aimed at solving their needs. Age, often intersected with other dimensions - such as gender, ethnicity, class and disability – contribute to influence the power of acting of people and their in/exclusion in designing and evaluation processes of new technologies.

The panel is intended to promote reflection on the sociological implications of the latest innovations in digital ageing research , with reference to disciplines of Sociology of Health, Medical Sociology and Science and Technology Studies. Particularly the session aspires at exploring the transformations emerging around technologies applied to ageing related health issues, increasing the involvement of end-users. Although a particular emphasis has been placed on improving the use of technology among aged people, a critical lens through which to understand the complex and multifaceted nature of inclusivity and intersectionality in digital ageing is still needed.

We therefore invite scholars to explore the entrance of digital technologies in the daily life of aged people, providing accounts that move away from dystopian and utopian narratives very common in popular science as well as, at least in part, in academic sphere. Where enthusiastic and critical positions about digital innovation have been often sustained by technological determinism, in contrast we welcome theoretical and empirical contributions that highlight agency capabilities of older patients and their caregivers by also focusing on multiple social identities such as ethnicity, gender, class, sexual orientation, religion and disability, which intersect to shape their health outcomes. In particular from our perspective, it is crucial to consider as age – along with just mentioned dimensions – might contribute to defining how a technological artefact is used or avoided or adapted (or not) to the environment in which the older people live.

Additionally, we ask scholars to reflect on methodological capacities of sociology to recognize different perspective and needs of older people, supporting the theoretical and empirical efforts of proposing anti-heroic and non-deterministic narratives about digital technologies. We believe that

this can happen developing methods and techniques that, one the one hand, explore the power of acting of actors generally excluded by the grand narratives about technological innovation and, on the other hand, involve these actors in the enactment and the evaluation of new technologies. In summary, the following areas and perspectives of analysis will be privileged:

  • Digital technologies and vulnerable populations;
  • Failures and pitfalls of digital technologies;
  • Appropriation and resistance practices from below;
  • Power asymmetries and re-negotiations in technological innovation;
  • Digital innovation, participatory and non-standard methods;
  • Inclusivity and intersectionality in digital ageing.

Professional and personal life equilibrium: When and how ageing affects societal changes and behaviors


  • Greta Falavigna, Research Institute on Sustainable Economic Growth of the National Council of Research, Italy;
  • Valentina Lamonica, Research Institute on Sustainable Economic Growth of the National Council of Research, Italy;
  • Arianna Radin, Research Institute on Sustainable Economic Growth of the National Council of Research, Italy.


work-life balance, elderly, ageing, policies


The ageing represents the well-known process that studies the increase of the population’s age. Literature suggests two main causes of European ageing: the increase of life expectancy and lower fertility rates. Even if from the second point of view, the migration flows affect these rates, statistics suggest that, in last decades, also immigrants show low fertility rates, then the total ageing is growing. From the other hand, considering higher life expectancy together with behaviour changes due to many different factors have, at the same time, increase the attention to the quality of the population ageing.

This session aims at analysing the personal characteristics and the external factors that can affect the quality of the ageing process, considering the equilibrium between professional and personal life. In addition, from the policy maker point of view, this topic is particularly crucial because retirement policies can affect the quality of ageing, and, at the same time, healthy elderly can be a resource for the system.

For these reasons, the main research question of the present section is “which are factors affecting a healthy ageing?” The main purpose of this section is to propose a debate on different personal characteristics, but also external aspects (for instance, public services, ageing policies, national economic-financial conditions, and so on) affecting the quality of life in elderly, considering both workers and retirees.

A second research question is represented by the societal changes due to changes in population framework. A society where the number of older people is increasing has to paid attention to specific needs, stimulating a societal change, postponing the retirement age or providing active roles for retirees in the society.

Qualitative or quantitative methodologies, theoretical or empirical studies, national or international analysis are welcome.

Going graphic: Understanding the potential of comics and visual storytelling to improve health narratives

  • Veronica Moretti, University of Bologna, Itlay;
  • Stefano Ratti, University of Bologna, Italy; 
  • Ruth Kutalek, Medical University of Vienna, Austria; 
  • Eva Katharina Masel, Medical University of Vienna, Austria;
  • Andrea Praschinger, Medical University of Vienna, Austria.

Over the last two decades, the use of comics and illustrative storytelling (graphic novels, vignettes, comic strips) in academic research has grown, giving rise to a set of theoretical and methodological approaches that are part of what is known as arts-based research. One example is Graphic Medicine (GM), the use of comics as a medium for analysing and communicating health issues, which is attracting an international community of academics, healthcare professionals, writers and artists.

The visual language of comics can not only make information more accessible, but also help to overcome language barriers. As an inclusive medium for patient education and wider public awareness (McNicol, 2017), GM can be used to raise awareness of barriers to social inclusion for people with disabilities (Manohar, 2022), living with heart disease (Swanson, 2016) and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic (Mirza, 2021). In addition, recent studies have recognised the
effectiveness of using graphic medicine in science education, to improve understanding of clinical concepts (Hoffman, 2021), to talk about global health (Praschinger et al 2023) and to address topics considered taboo, such as death and cadaver dissection (De Stefano et al 2022). Relatedly, the use of comics can have an impact on promoting greater empathy among healthcare professionals and medical students (Masel et al 2020).

The session aims to stimulate reflection on the implications of visual narratives (comics, graphic novels, vignettes, etc.) in the development of new methodological practices in health research (MoreW, 2023), new ways of conceptualising medical education and new ways of recognizing different perspectives and needs of patients and their caregivers. Comics written by and around vulnerable groups can provide valuable information about the daily struggles and challenges faced by individuals. In a way, comics can act as a soundboard, giving a voice to marginalised groups and becoming an inclusive tool.

We are looking for contributions that help us to reflect on the use of graphic narratives, paying attention to research and methodological processes, as well as to the difficulties and consequences of this new tendency in medical research.

In summary, the following areas and perspectives of analysis will be privileged:

  • Comics in medical education
  • Illness narratives conveyed into visual material
  • New epistemological and methodological paradigms created by comics
  • Health research experience comics-oriented
  • Health communication through comics
  • Ethics and comics

Labour, work, health and inclusion


  • Jen Remnant, University of Strathclyde, United Kingdom;
  • Jo Butler, University of Strathclyde, United Kingdom;
  • Anastasios Hadjisolomou, University of Strathclyde, United Kingdom.


Health, employment, disability, work, stigma, inclusion


Work, morality and health are tied together in the western context in ways fundamentally unchanged from the reflections of Weber in his 1905 book ‘The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism’ (2005 reprint). Despite this, work, labour and employment as activities and/or locations have often been remiss in sociological explorations of health and illness, despite the embodied nature of occupation, and its significance in understanding individual, regional and national identities and experiences (Meyer, 1997).

Paid work retains homily as being productive and respectable, and the worthiness of someone’s citizenship is tied up with their employment and work status (Bambra, 2011). When asked ‘what do you do?’, we recognise that we are being asked our occupation, not about our hobbies. There is wide agreement amongst sociologists exploring stigma, work and welfare that the primary requirement made of the citizen in the Global North is to contribute to society by means of paid work (Frayne, 2015; Bambra, 2011).

To be non-working is stigmatised. This is particularly so if the non-working person is deemed able to work, but unwilling. This is evidenced by the ever-present moral judgements and negativity directed toward those that do not and/or have not worked, including disabled people and people experiencing ill-health (Garthwaite, 2014). Workless people are often situated as ‘other’ from the hard-working families, taxpayers or citizens conjured up by various public figures to identify who should and should not benefit from capricious, contemporary policy initiatives, pledges or budgets (Mills and Pring, 2023), with serious implications for those who are experiencing long-term ill-health.

However, to be disabled or ill does not preclude an individual from engaging in paid or unpaid work. Employee experiences in the workplace are also subject to academic scrutiny; as evidenced by a proliferation of academic work relating to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion strategies, policies and agendas. This implies an increasing interest in the experiences of disadvantaged, oppressed and marginalised people in the workplace (Gould et al., 2022; Tampa et al., 2022), and an opportunity to contribute medical sociological perspectives to this area.

This stream will focus on exploring and understanding research centred on experiences of ill-health and disability in relation to work and labour. These topics draw on fundamental sociological concepts including those relating to embodiment, inequalities, intersectionality, deservingness, governance, biographical disruption, stigma and the sick role (Andreassen and Solvang, 2021; Østerud, 2023; Remnant, 2019). Beyond sociological examination of sickness and ill-health, this stream will bolster interdisciplinarity as it represents an important meeting point of medical sociology, the sociology of work and employment, social policy and disability studies. This stream will allow contributors to elaborate on the unexplored boundaries of un/paid work, worklessness, policy and their relationships with health and illness.

Submissions may address the following areas of interest (but are not limited to):

Experiences of health and illness, diagnosis, worklessness, unemployment, social welfare, the workplace management of ill-health, sickness absence, mental health, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), health and social care services, social and health policy and public health.


Andreassen, T.A. and Solvang, P.K., 2021. Returning to work or working on one’s rehabilitation: Social identities invoked by impaired workers and professionals in health care and employment services. Sociology of Health & Illness, 43(3), pp.575-590.

Bambra, C., 2011. Work, worklessness, and the political economy of health. OUP Oxford.

Frayne, D., 2015. The refusal of work: The theory and practice of resistance to work. Bloomsbury Publishing, London.

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Bourdieusian field of power and health

  • Gerry Veenstra, University of British Columbia, Canada;
  • Mirza Balaj, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway.


field of power; capitals; habitus; practices


According to the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, practices of all kinds are located in time and space and, while not always implemented consciously, are nevertheless implemented purposefully with practical intent. They are intimately interconnected with fields, structured systems of social positions with their own internal logics within which practices are situated; capitals, resources for strategic action that are also at stake in the fields; and habitus, systems of dispositions acquired over time that inform field-specific practices. When applied to class-based practices in particular, the overarching field of power within which social classes are potentially made manifest is the primary field of interest. This session will involve the application of Bourdieu’s relational theory of practice to data from multiple European nations in order to illuminate the contours of different European fields of power and explicate health-related practices which are dispersed within the fields and subject to their logics. Those studies that utilize quantitative survey will likely apply Multiple Correspondence Analysis, a technique that “thinks in terms of relations” and, accordingly, is especially well suited to applying Bourdieu’s relational theory of practices. I intend to begin the session with a presentation within which I will describe features of Bourdieu’s relational theory of practice so as to set the stage for the empirically-based presentations that follow.

Social inequalities in health care use


  • Heta Moustgaard, Helsinki Institute for Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Helsinki, Finland.


Health care, Social inequalities, Social determinants


This session invites presentations on social inequalities in health care use. The talks can assess the theme from a variety of perspectives, including:

  1. Different outcomes such as primary care, specialist care, medication use, and avoidable mortality.
  2. Inequalities across different population subgroups based on, e.g., gender, age, employment status, socioeconomic position, migration status, ethnicity, geographic location, or mental health and their intersections.
  3. Different foci ranging from descriptive analyses to assessment of the causes or consequences of social inequalities in health care use.
  4. Different methodological approaches including theoretical, qualitative, and quantitative studies.

If there is wide interest in the session topic and many potential presentations, the session can be divided into several subtopics based on, e.g., the population subgroup of interest or the methodological approach of the talks.

Preventive health (inequalities): Enhancing our understanding through adopting sociological theories


  • Katrijn Delaruelle, Ghent University, Belgium; 
  • Claudine Burton-Jeangros, University of Geneva, Switserland; 
  • Sorana Toma, Univeristy of Ghent, Belgium;
  • Vladimir Jolidon, University of Geneva; 
  • Piet Bracke, Ghent Univeristy, Belgium;
  • Bernadette van der Linden, University of Geneva, Switserland;
  • Stéphane Cullati, University of Fribourg, Switserland.


healthy ageing, preventive health, preventive health inequalities, intersectionality, life course, institutional approach


The second epidemiological transition –marked by a shift from acute, infectious diseases to degenerative, chronic diseases as the leading causes of mortality– has highlighted the fact that not all conditions can be effectively treated with medicine alone. The rising prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and diabetes, has emphasized the importance of prevention for healthy aging. This emphasis on prevention has been further amplified by the ascent of 'healthism', a widely embraced political ideology, largely influenced by neoliberalism. Healthism promotes the idea that prevention is primarily an individual responsibility, urging individuals to take proactive measures to safeguard their health. However, this individual-centred approach carries the risk of 'blaming the victim' and overlooks the significant influence of individuals' contexts on their opportunities to adopt healthy behaviours and engage in preventive practices.

It stands in sharp contrast to empirical studies that demonstrate the unequal distribution of preventive health practices across various socio-demographic and intersecting groups, disproportionately affecting those in lower social status positions, such as individuals with lower education levels and ethnic minorities. The persistence of preventive health inequalities is grounded in the fundamental cause theory (FCT). FCT posits that inequalities in preventive health arise because of the unequal distribution of flexible resources over the life course, and that they will persist in spite of medical and societal improvements as long as social stratification occurs. According to this framework, individuals in privileged positions have access to resources such as knowledge, financial means, social influence, and networks that enable them to adopt preventive measures, thereby creating a health advantage over those in less advantaged positions. The individual-centred approach also contrasts sharply with the increasing empirical evidence showing that preventive health and associated inequalities are shaped by macro-level institutional factors. For instance, studies have demonstrated that cancer screening participation rates and inequalities therein are influenced not only by the type of cancer screening program in place (organized versus opportunistic) but also by welfare arrangements and the extent of gender stratification. So it is beyond dispute that adopting sociological theory can enhance our understanding of (inequalities in) preventive health.

This session welcomes papers that take the research described above a step further and contribute to healthy aging by delving into the mechanisms driving (inequalities in) preventive health. The focus of these studies may encompass a range of preventive health outcomes, including but not limited to dental visits, vaccination behaviour, and cancer screening participation. We encourage submissions from diverse theoretical and methodological perspectives that address the following key issues:

  • Enhancing our understanding of intersectional inequalities in preventive health: There is currently limited knowledge about how intersecting structural power hierarchies affect individuals' opportunities to adopt a healthy lifestyle.
  • Enhancing our understanding of (inequalities in) preventive health through the adoption of a life course approach: Existing literature on how early life conditions and cumulative processes contribute to (inequalities in) preventive health is limited.
  • Enhancing our understanding of (inequalities in) preventive health through the adoption of an institutional perspective: There is ample room for research into which meso- and macro-level factors influence (inequalities in) preventive health.

Cultural capital and food-related practices


  • Thomas Abel, Universität Bern, Switserland;
  • Gerry Veenstra, University of British Columbia; Canada.


cultural capital; food; dietary practices; social class; socioeconomic stratification


Cultural capital has received increasing attention from public health researchers and practitioners in recent years. A concept developed by the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, cultural capital represents a way of bringing social theory to bear on associations between socioeconomic position and health-related factors. In this session we will focus on connections between cultural capital and food-related practices. When considered alongside other forms of capital, cultural capital can be used to better understand the factors and processes that link social stratification and cultural differentiation and how the interplay between them shapes food-related practices. Previous studies in this area have shown how cultural capital affects food-related factors such as food priorities, shopping, provisioning and consumption practices and priorities, illuminating how food choices compete with other choices and necessities of life and how economic priorities often coexist with emphases on healthy and ethical eating. This session will showcase new research on capitals and health, drawing attention to interplays between material and non-material resources, considering both distal and proximal determinants of health, and illuminating how social structures affect health-related agency and the distribution of health-related risks. We invite theoretical contributions as well as empirical contributions of any kind (quantitative, qualitative or mixed methods) that investigate health practices, food-related and other, through the lens of cultural capital. This session will contribute to the health inequalities discourse more generally by promoting exchange between theoretically and empirically oriented researchers researching capitals and health.