This paper explores the intersection of gender and class concerning welfare clients with medically unexplained symptoms. The study is conducted in Denmark using qualitative interviews with welfare officers and clients.
The paper’s focus is on how issues of gender and class intersect in the negotiation of illness among welfare officers and clients. The particular client group in question consists of individuals that are defined by their lack of a bio-medical diagnosis. Their ‘lack’ of identity accentuates how gender and class become central in the categorisation practices, constructing the ill person as either bio-medically sick or as a person who may be suffering but only from diffuse psychological problems.
The paper shows that it is predominantly poorly educated women without a bio-medical diagnosis that welfare officers describe as suffering from psychological problems despite the fact that the women themselves focus on physical ailments in their illness stories. Men and better-educated women are described by the welfare officers as tired and exhausted or truly stressed after a long working life.