What is health?

This is a question that comes up frequently from our clients, so we wanted to share with you all the different ways you can look at health because like many things in life there isn’t one single definition or one right way to look at it.

Firstly, I would love you to take some time to think about how you define health?

Now let’s see if you fall into any of the common definitions.

The old school approach was a very simple “the absence of disease”. Whereas the Oxford dictionary has broadened the definition slightly to “the state of being free from illness or injury”. Does this mean you are not healthy if you have recently strained your neck?

The last definition I wish to share is the World Health Organisations definition “health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”.

Or perhaps it means ticking the boxes when it comes to the following:

  • Absence of nutritional deficiencies
  • A healthy relationship with food
  • The absence of disease
  • Adequate fruit and veggie intake
  • Adequate water intake

Perspectives of health

Let’s take it a little further now and go step by step into the way health can be perceived by the general population:

· Health as not ill/diseased– can be the complete absence of disease in an individual or perhaps they separate a condition from this, “I feel good except for the muscle strain”.

· Health as a reserve- is the ability for a person to recover quickly from an ailment such as a cold or flu.

· Health as physical fitness- men often see this as their physical capabilities, ability to undertake tasks and muscle tone, however women may look at it as clear skin, shiny hair or body weight.

· Health as a behaviour towards a health life-overall enthusiasm for life. Such as being able to get up easily in the morning, having energy to get through the day and the ability to carry out the activities in your daily life.

· Health as social relationships– the ability of spending time or helping others.

5 Key areas or dimensions of health

It is now considered to be in “good health” that you have a balance of the 5 dimensions of health.

· Spiritual Healthnow spiritual health isn’t just organised religion, although it can be part of it, it is also being able to find peace and harmony in your own life, knowing your values and acting within them and sharing a common purpose.

· Emotional Health – is being aware of your emotions and being able to accept feelings or stressors. It includes things like self-esteem, having realistic expectations, self-confidence, being able to express feelings and control emotions when required.

· Social Health – is the ability to build and maintain relationships with others.

· Mental Health – is a state of wellbeing, where you are aware of your own potential, ability to cope with the stressors of life and contribute to the community.

· Physical Health – which can be broken down into many facets including fitness, being free from ailments and injury, rest and recovery, sleep, and nutrition.

What about external factors affecting health?

While there is a lot we can control ourselves, sometimes there are external factors at play, or perhaps an inequality you experience currently or experienced in the past during childhood. When it comes to influencing our health, these determinants can also impact nutrition, diet and health, such as our employment status, income status, educational opportunities, our cultural and religious beliefs and environmental factors.

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