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The Social Representations of Health: A Common Symbolic Place

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Document pages: 17 pages

Abstract: Background: There are relatively limited studies exploring therelationship between social representations and language although language is asystem that lives in the symbolic universe of the people, where every word hasthe dual nature of both signified and signifier. Aim: This study aimedto identify and investigate the common social representation of eight wordsrepresenting health and lifestyle factors in a convenience sample of 288 adultsfrom general population living in Greece. Methods: The participants were asked to express threeconsecutive words associated with eight different life experiences using thefree association method. The frequency of all word combinations was calculatedregardless of the position that they have been said and the undirected graph ofthe words was created. The position of each word in the graph and itsrelationship with the other words of the same word group was characterized byits centrality. Repeated measures analysis of variance was applied toinvestigate the word position and category effects in the centrality of thespoken word controlling for gender, age, family situation, and educational level. Results: In all eight-word categories,a decreasing order of centrality was observedin the spoken words a finding that supports the hypothesis that there are common reflections on the language of therepresentations concerning the questioned life experiences. Nosignificant differences were reported for sociodemographicfactors highlighting the character of language as a social symbolic system adopted by all members of society regardless of theirparticular characteristics. Conclusions: We concluded that theunderstanding of the relationship between social representations of health andthe language is intrinsically related to the behavior that language as a commonway of communication can bring to psychosomatic health.

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