Économie et Statistique n° 393-394 - 2006Life Story survey
Health as a definer of identity
In order to evaluate the impact of health problems on personal identity construction, three questions were used to delimit the population concerned by. Overall, 53 % of the population is affected by health problems : 4.5 % notify only activity limitation,, 23 % a medical treatment or regular check-ups. 16 % notify both activity limitation and check-ups, 9.5 % after-affects of previous health problems. Regarding identity construction, 17 % of the people with limited activity or regular check-up consider themselves as ill, 11 % as having a disability, and 15 % quote their health problem or disability as one of their principal defining features. Moreover, the expression of identities allows an additional category of people to be identified : those who, though in bad health, do not feel neither disabled nor ill. The different ways of defining oneself according to health as proposed by the survey thus isolates quite distinct populations. Whilst the severity of health problems, measured by combining medical monitoring and professional restrictions on physical activity, remains the main ground for these expressions, social status plays also an important part. To stop working and to be confined at home result straight from illness. Such social consequences lead people to feel disabled or ill. Childless men and people are particularly prone to claim disability, whilst socially vulnerable people, particularly in terms of income, tend to identify themselves as being ill. Eventually, to refer to health problem as a significant defining feature without feeling sofar ill or disabled individualise mainly old people and people who still suffer from the after-effects of a previous health problem.