Narratives of risk: Women at midlife, medical 'experts' and health technologies

  • Green E
  • Thompson D
  • Griffiths F
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Abstract

The `management' of midlife women's bodies is becoming an increasingly
important focus for both themselves and medical `experts'. Health
technologies play a major part in this process, given health promotion
messages about their usefulness for maintaining and enhancing the
quality of life. But how do individual women interpret such messages?
This paper explores the factors that impact upon health decision making
in relation to a group of these technologies. In particular, we examine
how related risks are assessed by women themselves and jointly with
health professionals, in the clinical context. Drawing upon literature
from the sociology of the body and embodiment, debates about risk and
feminist research on the menopause, we argue that midlife needs to be
understood as an embodied experience and that women's decisions about
technology-based health interventions need to be contextualised. The
paper draws upon research data from interviews with individual women and
health professionals, and recordings of clinical consultations which
relate to the specific technologies of HRT, bone densitometry and breast
screening. The data reveal the emergence of two major risk narratives
within consultations and interviews, health risks and social risks. We
conclude that the health decisions and practices of both lay women and
health professionals reflect a complex mixture of expert knowledge and
advice, and embodied cultural experience.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Innovative health technology
  • Menopause
  • Risk
  • Women

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