Health and wellbeing in an island community where urban style deprivation and traditional rural values interact

Chaplin, Brian Douglas (2010) Health and wellbeing in an island community where urban style deprivation and traditional rural values interact. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis explored aspects of the urban-rural interface within a densely populated, deprived housing scheme located on a remote, rural island lying off the north west coast of Scotland.

The thesis had two aims, the first related to health, health inequality and aspects of neighbourhood and from this exploration a second aim emerged that focused in detail on the effects of rurality and religion as significant cultural influences that determined the nature of health and social environment.

The Cearns housing area of Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis is reminiscent of a mainland urban scheme in terms of housing design and layout with units spaced around a series of pedestrianised courts with little green space. Significantly, most tenants, both well-established and recent, have their origins in rural Lewis, bringing with them a number of rural beliefs and behaviours.

An in-depth qualitative study was carried out through individual interviews (N=55) and Cattell's social network typology was applied to inform interpretation of the nature of the social infrastructure.

The main findings demonstrated the existence of 'traditional', 'socially excluded' and 'solidaristic' networks from which a strong sense of island identity, described as 'hebridean', emerged. In marked contrast to many urban areas, crime and vandalism levels were low, the housing stock was well maintained and the area was described by residents as friendly and close-knit. Hebridean communities are rural in nature, the Cearns being an anomaly, yet it shared with neighbouring villages close familial and other connections as most residents either know, or know of, their neighbours. Rurality and remoteness reinforced a 'can-do' self help culture where friendliness and co-operation is expected and this can be related to Freudenberg's notion of the 'density of acquaintanceship'. This study demonstrated that residents, irrespective of age or gender, have this view of the world, either from personal experience or through the rural upbringing of their parents and that either way a particular range of attitudes and behaviours has come with them to the Cearns.

In addition to themes associated with rurality, findings from this thesis demonstrated the effect of religion at the level of the individual in terms of social support, as well as at community level in relation to social cohesion, identity and social control. Communities on the Isle of Lewis are distinctive and possibly unique within the UK in their continued adherence to the biblically strict Presbyterian religion, apparent through high levels of church attendance and strict Sabbath observance. Use of Social Identity Theory with its understanding of in-groups and out-groups provided a framework for an analysis of the interface of religion with social cohesion. The study concluded that these remote, close-knit, Gaelic-speaking, religious communities are amongst the most distinctive in the UK and that the methodology and findings of this study would have relevance in studies of similar communities elsewhere, notably within the hitherto under-researched rural communities of the Western Isles.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Health, health inequality, deprivation, rurality, Presbyterian religion, identity, culture, Gaelic, Hebrides
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Urban Studies
Supervisor's Name: Mackenzie, Dr. Mhairi and Hanlon, Prof. Phil
Date of Award: 2010
Depositing User: Mr Brian Chaplin
Unique ID: glathesis:2010-1959
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 23 Jun 2010
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:49

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