9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN16 Sociology of Health and Illness

Risk behaviors and social representations on health among portuguese population

Opinions about specific topics are summaries or even examples of social representations about these issues and the cultural models that they represent. Issues such as those related to the consumption of psychoactive substances, and that are associated to risk behaviour, speaking in health as well as in social terms, can produce a diversity of opinions and practices.
The drug use or drug abstinence - as of those substances that can cause harm to each one´s health, such as alcoholic drinks, tobacco and drugs without medical prescription -, is an example of the way people act against health issues. According to many researches, use depends on the social characteristics of individuals: prevalences differ by gender, age, region, substance and other socio-economic and socio-cultural variables.
How people reconcile representations and practices in health matters? Healthy behaviours correspond to social condemnation of unhealthy practices or opinions can be different from practices? Healthy behaviours are compatible with addictives behaviours? How can health-living cultural models be managed?
We will try to answer some of these questions using data from the national survey on the use of psychoactive substances in Portugal, in 2001 and 2007, to a representative sample of 15,000 individuals. Our approach will focus on the concept of risk, trying to understand the social representations on risk behaviours and the way they affect one´s health and health practices.