The social construction of multiple sclerosis in Israel: a cultural reading of illness narratives

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Abstract

Purpose: Illness narratives are cultural artifacts that reflect the ways through which a certain culture perceives and constructs a given illness. Against this backdrop, the study explored the social construction of MS in Israeli society. Materials and methods: Thematic content analysis of all (70) illness narratives posted on the Israel MS Society’s website between 2012–2018, was employed. Results: Five themes were identified in our analysis, according to chronological order: (1) “Becoming ill”–consisted of framing MS as a sudden affliction or constructing MS as a gradual development. (2) “Negative changes” depicted MS as inflicting negative bodily changes and a disruption to the social order. The “happy ending” of the narratives pertained to (3) "adjustments" to MS and, (4) “never giving up” to MS. These were facilitated by embracing (5) “positive thinking and optimism.” Conclusions: MS is perceived in Israel as a form of “deviance” and as a biomedical phenomenon. Rehabilitation and healthcare staff, therefore, need to actively engage in interventions that challenge and change the ways that MS is perceived, as well as to partner with people with MS, and disability advocates to reconstruct and design policies and services that reflect a more socio-political understanding of MS.Implications for rehabilitation Illness narratives by people with multiple sclerosis (MS) can teach us about the ways though which a given society perceives and constructs MS. This study analyzed online illness narratives by Israelis with MS; it shows that MS was predominantly constructed as a bio-medical phenomenon and as a form of social deviance. Rehabilitation and healthcare professionals need to actively engage in interventions that challenge and change the ways MS is perceived among the public, policy makers, and people with multiple sclerosis. Rehabilitation and healthcare professionals should collaborate with people with MS and disability advocates in order to reconstruct and shape policies and the planning of communities such that they address the socio-cultural barriers that people with MS face.

Original languageEnglish
JournalDisability and Rehabilitation
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

Keywords

  • Culture
  • Internet
  • Israel
  • multiple sclerosis
  • personal narrative

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation

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