Are Perceptions of Health Dependant on Social Class? Studying Soft Power and Symbolic Violence in a Health Promotion Program among Young Men at Vocational Schools

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Health behaviour among young people has a social gradient, and tends to be skewed in terms of gender as well. Young men in vocational educational settings are an example where the inequality in health is apparent. Addressing this problem requires an understanding of health behaviour and its determinants in the target group in order to be able to develop interventions that can address the problem. The aim of the paper is to investigate to what extent a multicomponent intervention based on the Whole School Approach, targeting the risk behaviours, smoking, eating and physical activity that have an impact on health behaviour among male students in a disadvantaged educational setting. The paper uses self-reported longitudinal data on risk behaviours from the "Gearing up the Body" 1-year intervention program that was implemented among students at a Danish vocational school. For the analysis, we created a score model to categorise students and behaviour. Analyses suggest that interventions had only a modest impact and what evidence there is shows that the interventions reduced the health behaviour scores by 0.03 points. More specifically, we find that symbolic violence reduces the health behaviour score of the healthy types by 0.20 points, whereas soft power increases the health behaviour of the unhealthy type by 0.05 points. An explanation for the disappointing results of the "Gearing up the Body" program is tension between different understanding of what is "right" and "wrong" health behaviour. We find that the ideas of soft power and symbolic violence can contribute to a better understanding of why health and health behaviour is understood differently among vocational students. Thus, the finding demonstrates that one needs to apply a participatory approach rather than a normative approach addressing the health behaviour of disadvantaged individuals.

TidsskriftInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Udgave nummer14
Antal sider16
StatusUdgivet - 2021

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