Jefferson Journal of Psychiatry


One of the common goals in medical anthropology is to elucidate the significance of culture in determining health and thus clarify the complex biopsychosocial model to provide better, more appropriate care (I). Prominent among environmental influences is the society in which a person develops: and it is his position in this constellation of people, with their shared ethos and world view, which molds experience, cognition, and affect (2). Cultural meanings, norms, and power arrangements shape illness to a great degree by defining the sick role and consequent illness behaviors. Medical anthropology, as a discipline, has among its concerns the cultural content of health and illness behaviors: it includes studies of how social experiences define sickness and shape ideas of disease recognition and therapy (3) . Both physician and patient offer, either unconsciously or consciously, explanatory models of disease and expectations of the health care system which form a continuum ranging from full agreement to mutual disregard (4). These observations spring from a cursory glance at even a single society and accumulate greater power when comparative cultural studies are involved, as is the case in cross-cultural psychiatry.

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