Sociologists have researched the subject of illness behaviour for more than five decades. Recently the discussion has taken on new importance because of changes in the delivery of health care and the emergence of patients' rights and increased patient knowledge of medicine. Through a selective review of the literature on illness behaviour, the paper aims to show that singular and segmented approaches to illness behaviour have not clearly elucidated the complexity of the phenomenon. A more comprehensive and structured analysis of illness behaviour can be accomplished with mixed qualitative and hierarchical/structural quantitative techniques. Following a discussion of prior research in social psychology, demography, economics, social networks and geographic systems, this paper offers a template for future analysis of illness behaviour.