Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Science


Health and Rehabilitation Sciences


Dr. Lilian Magalhaes


Women’s structural position within society and their family roles significantly influence their health. Previous studies have shown women hold lower health and socioeconomic status because of their gender within the Saudi culture. This study aimed to provide an understanding of how Saudi women value health and define being healthy within their social contexts. Adopting an ethnographic perspective, three focus groups (31 participants in total) were conducted with volunteer undergraduate Saudi female students on campus during a nine-week field trip to the participants’ university, King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Three themes were generated from this study that characterize the meaning of health for the participants: 1) societal influences, 2) personal experiences and interactions, and 3) strategies developed from the interactions of both domains. The study findings demonstrate how societal norms and institutional policies, combined with women’s personal experiences and interactions within their environment, negatively impact the lifestyle of Saudi women, which in turn shapes their health perspectives and practices. The significance of this study and implications for research and service delivery are discussed.


Health meanings, health perceptions, Saudi university women, ethnography, critical theory, qualitative research.