Health is a complicated concept, and understanding it requires an exploration of both personal and societal factors. Personal health is defined as the state of a person’s well-being, which includes physical, mental, and social well-being. It is influenced by both lifestyle and genetics. People with poorer health are more likely to have a family history of a disease, but this is not the only factor. Environmental factors such as quality of food, water and air, and the amount of social interaction can also have an impact on health.
For centuries, physicians have struggled to understand what makes a person healthy. A few decades ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) defined health as a “state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” This definition shifted the focus from the treatment of symptoms to the promotion of functioning.
There is no single definition of health, and this pluralism reflects the variety of contexts in which the concept makes sense. The home context of a concept refers to the environment in which it is elaborated, and it influences the way in which it is conceptualized (1). The plurality of definitions suggests that a concept makes more sense inside its home context than outside it (2).
During the early years of medicine, the Greek philosophers Democritus and Hippocrates both explored the notion of health, questioning why people prayed to god for good health when it was essentially under their own control. Hippocrates emphasized diet and exercise, and he was the first to describe how different conditions might occur during the winter (respiratory disorders) and summer (digestive problems).
Modern science has expanded the knowledge of what affects health. We now know that the human genome plays an important role in a person’s health, and genetic differences between individuals can contribute to the development of diseases such as asthma, heart disease, and cancer. Scientists are now able to test for the presence of genes that might increase the risk of disease in an individual and identify the best preventive measures to take.
But even the most advanced medical technology cannot overcome some underlying problems that will affect the health of every individual. For example, the quality of sleep is critical for optimum health, but many adults are unable to get enough sleep to meet their needs. This can lead to depression, anxiety and an inability to concentrate or remember things.
It is up to each of us to decide how we want to be healthy. A good place to start is by examining our current habits, and identifying the areas where we can improve. Whether it is moving your body regularly, eating a balanced diet, drinking less alcohol and not smoking, prioritising restful sleep, or managing stress, every step you take towards better health is a victory. Keep up the good work!