The health of Irish-descended Catholics in Glasgow: a qualitative study of the links between health risk and religious and ethnic identities

Walls, Patricia (2005) The health of Irish-descended Catholics in Glasgow: a qualitative study of the links between health risk and religious and ethnic identities. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The overall aim of this research is to provide qualitative data which may help explain the health disadvantage found in quantitative studies among many generations of Irish people in Britain. It examines the ways in which social factors linked to recognised health risks relate to Catholic versus Protestant identity and Irish versus Scottish origin. Using data from 72 qualitative interviews, with people in different religious/ethnic, gender, class and age groups, the analysis focuses on three key areas of social life: employment, communal life and family life. The impact of structural and cultural factors on health and identity, and the ways in which structure and culture are mutually and dynamically constitutive are examined.

The evidence points to the health relevance of structural factors (direct and indirect discrimination, and hidden and institutional sectarianism), which are dependent upon externally identifying a cultural difference, Catholic upbringing. These effects on health are theorised to be both via class position and psychosocial pathways, and directly connected to how Catholic identity is maintained and constructed. Over time, since both discrimination and Catholic religious practice are assessed as waning, it may be postulated that past discrimination, while undoubtedly a factor in relation to current ill health, may lose its explanatory force for future ill health. On the other hand, the positive health benefits to be gained by Catholics through being religious are also likely to wane, as a defined religious culture among Catholics becomes less prevalent.

The continued perception of the diffuse experience of anti-Catholic bigotry in social life appears to influence health negatively. It seems that it is in the experience of uncertainty and exclusion, that health may be compromised, a particular issue for men’s health, and particularly for middle class ‘younger’ Catholic men who challenge exclusions and boundaries. Thus class is important, as is the ‘classing’ or religious identity. Also, while women may escape past identities, for men this option is not possible. Irish Catholic identity, even as the Irish component is often not explicitly referred to, but rather submerged, may link to health positively and negatively in a number of ways, and links also to an every-changing culture which affects and is affected by wider structures, ideologies and past history. Irish Catholic identity is highly contextualised and differently experienced by gender, class and cohort.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Colleges/Schools: College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing
Supervisor's Name: Williams, Dr. Rory
Date of Award: 2005
Depositing User: Mr Toby Hanning
Unique ID: glathesis:2005-1550
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 17 Feb 2010
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:42

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