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Anthropology Relationship with Medical Science

By studying social, cultural, and archaeological characteristics, anthropology sheds light on who we are, what we are, and what makes us different from other humans.

Anthropology is a combined study of the cultural and biological condition of humans. In this scientific study, we consider all the aspects of human beings. When studying an individual, anthropologists take a holistic approach; they consider all the social-cultural factors and conclude research of the past and present of the individual. What makes up that particular person, what contributes to their behaviour, and how they differ from others. Anthropology is related to various fields. This article aims to provide an understanding of anthropology’s relationship with medical science. 

What is Anthropology?

Anthropology is linked with political science, archaeology, sociology, behavioural science, earth science, etc. Anthropologists do not need to conduct experiments like other fields of disciplines here. A person’s life experience is studied, and this experience gives us a picture that all of these disciplines overlap with anthropology.

Many scientists have contributed to this subfield of anthropology; some of them are As Morsy, Vincente Navarro, Otto Von Mering, Rudolf Virchow, Margaret mead, Franz Boas, Ruth Benedict, Gregory Bateson, Bronisław Malinowski. The first anthropology society was established in Berlin by Rudolf Virchow, a pathologist with an interest in social medicine.

The anthropological study is based on empirical research:

Empirical studies are research-based on direct observation or experience; one can analyse them quantitatively and qualitatively. The analysis combines quantitative and qualitative forms and helps answer questions that cannot be studied in laboratory settings.

What is the relationship of anthropology with medical science?

Medical anthropology is the branch of anthropology that collects necessary information about a patient to assist the treatment process. 

  • The social-cultural, linguistic, and biological background is researched, affecting the patient’s overall health. Anthropology is based on empirical research and not based on experiments in laboratories.
  • According to the reports of WHO, 94 per cent of maternal deaths occur in developing and underdeveloped countries. Since most of the deaths happen due to cultural and social setup, the importance of anthropology study cannot be ruled out—malnutrition, poor quality of care, lack of coordination of health care facilities, etc.
  • The essential anthropological theory about this is the “obstetric dilemma”. Giving birth to a baby is a natural process, and most animals don’t need any assistance for doing that. But in the case of humans, it is different, and the obstetric dilemma hypothesis puts forward the aspects of why humans frequently need assistance to give childbirth. Anthropology studies show an idea of how to balance the difficulty of having a narrow pelvis to give birth to a foetus with a bigger size and more extensive brain. 
  • With the deep study and research on the various socio-cultural factors, we have found solutions to many problems related to maternal mortality. We have succeeded in reducing the rate of death. This achievement is not possible without the field of anthropology.
  • As another example, we can take the case of an alcoholic patient; the treatment provided includes behavioural treatment, medication, mutual support groups consisting of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and alcohol counsellors. One can make this treatment a great success with the help of an anthropologist. 
  • The anthropologist collects information on the family background of the individual, social behaviour of the particular person, culturally related factors that contributed to the addition of the individual to alcoholism, and finds the ways the medicines can help overcome this addiction. So there is practical problem-solving in a medical situation. This is one of the importance of medical anthropology.

So whatever be the disease, whether it be undernutrition, drug addiction, cancer, genetic disorder, injury, or disorder, the problems are tracked, solutions are set so that they help people worldwide.

An anthropologist’s study of the area includes statistical reporting, democratic observation, technical survey, Studying the health problems currently prevailing in society.


Today studying the epidemiology of the disease has become necessary. Corona appeared in a small china city spread to different parts of the world without checking how it spread and how people in the other parts of the world behave to social distancing and vaccination. Without this information, physicians would not be able to control the disease. So, when diagnosing any disease, all the factors around the patient need to be considered. This helps in the treatment. This was all about anthropology’s relationship with medical science. In medical science, it plays a vital role.