Publication Details

Bjorklund, E. & Wright, J. (2017). Gender and evolutionary theory in workplace health promotion. Health Education Journal, 76 (8), 893-905.


Objective: Ideas from evolutionary theories are increasingly taken up in health promotion. This article seeks to demonstrate how such a trend has the potential to embed essentialist and limiting stereotypes of women and men in health promotion practice. Design: We draw on material gathered for a larger ethnographic study that examined how discourses of health were re-contextualised in four workplace health promotion interventions in Sweden. Method: This study provided the opportunity to investigate how ideas derived from evolutionary theories produced particular constructs of the healthy employee. A Foucauldian notion of governmentality was used to examine the rationalities, truths and techniques that informed what we have called a 'Stone Age' discourse as these contributed to shaping the desires, actions and beliefs of lecturers and participants in the interventions. Results: We focus on one intervention which used the Stone Age discourse as an organising idea to constitute differences in women's and men's health through references to women as gatherers and men as hunters, thereby positioning men as the physical, emotional and mental ideal and women as the problematic and lacking 'other'. Conclusion: The paper concludes by discussing the implications of such ideas about health and gender for interventions aimed at changing behaviour and lifestyles.



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