This is the initial report of a longitudinal study conducted in a developing, culturally heterogeneous society. The study compares figures of frequency and length of perceived illness, subjective reports of biological and behavioural symptoms, and use of medical facilities in response to episodes of illness by female heads of households from two highly distinctive social-ethnic groups. Despite differences in socioeconomic status and cultural beliefs about disease and treatment, both groups showed roughly comparable rates of perceived illness, but certain differences were noted. The more prosperous Western group termed ladinos, showed they had had more illness which had also lasted longer, as well as higher levels of symptoms. The medical actions of the two groups in response to these episodes of illness differed. The significance of these results is discussed with respect to the multiplicity of factors which influence health status and judgements of perceived illness.
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