The Conceptualization of Health
Health, as defined by the World Health Organization, is a condition “of full mental, physical and social well being and not simply the absence of sickness and disease”. A number of definitions have also been used over the years for various purposes. Some of these, while not officially recognized by the WHO, are commonly accepted as current global health standards.
There are several reasons as to why a person’s health status may be affected. These could include exposure to hazardous substances, unhealthy diets and sedentary lifestyles. People who are exposed to hazardous substances, such as asbestos, heavy metals and mercury, may suffer from long-term health conditions such as cancer, heart diseases, asthma, liver diseases and gastrointestinal disorders. People who lead a unhealthy lifestyle and do not engage in physical activity have higher chances of developing certain types of diseases, as well.
According to the WHO, there are five broad determinants of health status: general health, the physical health, the mental health, the social health and the lifestyle choices. The physical and mental determinants are described as subjective and objective, while the social determinants are based on individual experiences and behaviors. The WHO also considers body size, age, gender and ethnicity as determinants of health status. Over time, these determinants have become more interdependent. Thus, the definition of what is considered to be a determinant has also changed.
As mental and physical aspects, the quality of life index, the perceived stress load, the social stress load and the perceived competence of people have greater impact than previously understood. The index combines the physical and mental aspects to measure the overall health. Satisfaction with life and the ability to live well are considered to be two important determinants of health. Psychological well-being has an indirect effect on physical well-being through its impact on the emotional health.
A health status indicator comprises of the components of a good health which include the physical dimension (including body mass index, blood pressure, cholesterol level, heart rate, etc. ), the mental dimension (which includes the functioning capacity for learning, memory, intelligence, emotional well-being, etc. ), the social dimension (which includes the ability to get along with others, ability to enjoy, the acceptance by peers, the enjoyment of good relationships, and the satisfaction with life) and the lifestyle choices. In addition to this, the use of medications, healthy practices, and the presence of prevalent illnesses (such as diabetes, HIV, pneumonia, and various infectious diseases) were also included in the index.
The concept of defining health has become an important part of the everyday lives of people from all walks of life. This has become increasingly important due to the increased longevity and the associated health concerns. For instance, people now consider it unhealthy to be obese or overweight even at older ages, with regard to their physical health. Likewise, with regards to their mental health, they tend to think that it is not healthy to have a long history of depression, or social anxiety (which can be manifested through the use of drugs, alcohol, or violence) as well as to be experiencing a low self-esteem.