Culture, illness, and the biopsychosocial model

Fam Med. 1991 May-Jun;23(4):287-91.


Family medicine has appropriated the biopsychosocial model as a conceptualization of the systemic interrelationships among the biological, the psychological, and the social in health and illness. For all its strengths, it is questionable whether this model adequately depicts the centrality of culture to the human experience of illness. Culture (as meaning system) is not an optional factor that only sometimes influences health and illness; it is prerequisite for all meaningful human experience, including that of being ill. A more adequate model of the relationship between culture and illness would demonstrate the preeminence of culture in the experience of illness among all people, not just members of "exotic" cultures; would view healers as well as patients as dwellers in culture; would incorporate the role of culture as meaning system in linking body, mind, and world; and would promote the significance of the cultural context as a resource for research and therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health
  • Culture*
  • Disease / psychology*
  • Family Practice
  • Humans
  • Medicine, Traditional
  • Metaphysics
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Religion and Medicine
  • Systems Theory