Understanding the Definition of Health


A person’s health is a complex concept and the definition of it has evolved through many centuries. Nevertheless, a common understanding of health is that it means the absence of disease and infirmity. However, the word health can mean so much more and a healthy lifestyle is a key to handling stress, preventing illness, and enjoying life.

Health encompasses the physical, mental, and social aspects of well-being. A person’s health is influenced by genes, environment, and lifestyle choices. A variety of healthcare professionals can contribute to a person’s overall wellness including doctors, nurses, therapists, pharmacists, and dieticians. In addition, the people in a person’s life can have an impact on his or her health.

The first type of definition of health is focused on a person’s absence of disease and infirmity. A person is considered healthy when medical tests reveal no signs or symptoms of disease. This view of health has serious limitations, though. For example, a person who has tested negative for all forms of cancer may develop a new form of cancer years later. Similarly, a person who is diagnosed as having no allergies could experience an allergic reaction to a different allergen in the future.

Another common definition of health is based on the assumption that good health depends on an individual’s ability to function effectively in the environment that he or she lives in. This view of health is often called a holistic approach. It considers the environment in which a person lives, including its natural, built, and social elements. It also looks at the cultural and social factors that influence a person’s well-being.

For example, a person who lives in an area with poor air quality may suffer from asthma, heart disease, and other respiratory illnesses. A person who lacks close relationships with friends and family may feel depressed or anxious. Lastly, a person who doesn’t exercise regularly and sleeps poorly may have less energy and be at risk of developing chronic diseases.

The third type of definition of health is based on the notion that good health involves having an optimal capacity to adapt to change. This definition of health is called allostasis. It explains that a person is at his or her best when they are in the “sweet spot” of the allostasis continuum. The ideal is to maintain a balance between the demands of the environment and a person’s internal resources. The idea is that when a person’s resources are depleted, they will start to have trouble responding to environmental challenges. However, when a person’s resources are high, they will be more resilient in the face of challenges.