Jason Fletcher, Director of the Wisconsin Center for Demography of Health and Aging (CDHA) , evaluates the integration of genetic data into medical sociology research in a new co-authored article in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.
Boardman JD, Fletcher JM. Evaluating the Continued Integration of Genetics into Medical Sociology. Journal of Health and Social Behavior. August 2021. doi:10.1177/00221465211032581
The 2010 special issue of Journal of Health and Social Behavior, titled “Fifty Years of Medical Sociology,” defined the contours of the medical sociological perspective. We use this as a backdrop to outline and assess the continued integration of genetics into medical sociology research. We contend that the explosion of genetic and epigenetic data in population health data sources has made the medical sociological perspective increasingly relevant to researchers outside of sociology, including public health, epidemiology, and quantitative genetics. We describe vast, underappreciated, and mostly unsolved challenges that limit the scientifically appropriate interest in incorporating genetics into existing paradigms. It is our hope that medical sociologists continue this integration but redouble efforts to maintain the core insights in social science research, such as the importance of environmental and structural (i.e., nonbiological) factors in determining health processes and outcomes and the use of rich, integrated, and rigorous empirical analyses.