What Is Health?


Health, also known as hygienically sound or healthful, is a state of physical, mental, and social well-being and not simply the absence of disease. The World Health Organization defined health in 1948, stating that “health is a positive concept of well-being, based on the full realization and development of the individual’s potentialities.”

This definition is revolutionary and goes far beyond the medical model of healthcare that focuses on diagnosing and treating disease. It puts the individual in a position to self-determine what their health needs are and makes doctors a partner in meeting those needs.

A person’s underlying health is the result of a complex interaction between their genes, their lifestyle and the animate and inanimate environment they live in. Genetic factors include a person’s family history, which is referred to as genetic predisposition. Environmental factors refer to the social, cultural and economic environment in which a person lives and the quality of that life. They include the financial status of a family, which can affect their ability to purchase healthy foods and take part in recreational activities. They also include the physical culture of a person’s living environment, which can influence which germs they come in contact with and the levels of pollution.

The third component of health is a person’s values and life expectations. It is what they believe they should expect to experience from their life and the level of function they can achieve in their own age group in relation to other people in their age group. People tend to be realistic in their life-expectations and value things like a good quality of life, friendships and other relationships, a sense of belonging, achievement and the capacity for fun.

These factors can be classified as the social determinants of health and can influence a person’s ability to achieve their desired level of optimum health. They include the level of education, employment and income; family circumstances and early childhood; housing; working conditions; social connections and support; the physical environment; and a person’s behaviours (Commission on Social Determinants of Health 2008).

A person can improve their overall health by making small changes to their daily routine. For example, eating more fresh fruits and vegetables and less processed food can help with weight loss. Taking time to relax and spend quality time with friends and family can decrease stress. And sleeping on a clean sheet can lower the risk of infection from germs, such as bacteria and dust mites. All of these actions are important parts of a healthy lifestyle. Click on the cards below to see expert-approved checklists of simple ways that you can start improving your health today!