Social practice, plural lifestyles and health inequalities in the United Kingdom

Publication type

Journal Article

Published in

Sociology of Health & Illness


Jens Kandt

Publication date


Persistent health inequalities pose a continued research and policy challenge in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. Current approaches to health research and promotion are predicated on a distinction between wider, social structural causes and individual, health‐related behaviours often conceived of as lifestyle choices. Drawing on Bourdieu's theory of social practice, this paper develops an integrated perspective by observing associations between health and structured lifestyle practices. Using the UK Understanding Society household survey, a taxonomy of eight lifestyle clusters is identified, which exhibit significant health inequalities on a number of indicators. But the plurality of practices and subjective orientations inherent in the taxonomy reveals a finer, more complex differentiation of the social gradient in health. In addition, lifestyle appears to at least in parts mediate the relationship between social, material conditions and health. A feature of the taxonomy is that it admits a relational and contextual apprehension of health‐relevant, behavioural aspects within a more holistic notion of lifestyles. Based on this view, strategic approaches can be developed that respond to group‐specific situations and pathways and their varying roots in upstream or downstream domains of policy.

Volume and page numbers

40, 1294-1311





Health, Sociology, Social Stratification and Social Behaviour


Open Access; This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.; © 2018 The Author. Sociology of Health & Illness published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Foundation for SHIL