Health, according to the World Health Organization, “is a state of full physical, emotional and social well being and not just the absence of illness and disease.” Over the years, various definitions for what constitutes health have been employed. In modern times, “health” typically refers to a capacity to experience pleasure in activities that do not cause injury to oneself or others. In addition, health involves having the ability to enjoy personal relationships and participate in community life.
Many of the definitions of health have been developed as a result of political, social, and medical factors. The twentieth century has seen major efforts to improve health through public education, research, and advocacy. Since then, there have been a number of different approaches to defining what constitutes the best definition of health. For example, some people argue that the definition should include mental health, but not physical illness and vice versa. Still other critics define health as a condition that is a product of a persons’ social environments and cultural experiences.
Some critics argue that any attempt to create a standard definition for health should be rejected, as the third definition offered by most researchers is too inclusive. According to this third definition, all people living in modern society are grouped into “risk groups”. These risk groups are determined by statistical distributions of characteristics such as age, gender, race, economic status, place of birth, and other known or suspected characteristics. These distributions give an idea of the likelihood of a person to develop a certain disease, illness, or condition and to survive it over a life course of events.
The presence of these risk determinants makes it more than possible to identify those groups who are at higher risk and to reduce their risk by following recommended steps. For example, a good measure of health would be mortality and morbidity rates, which are caused by diseases and deaths from diseases. Similarly, a good measure of well-being would be life expectancy and the expectancy of death, which are caused by deaths and terminal illnesses.
This third definition of health emphasizes the need for defining and measuring health. In fact, the only way to have a precise concept of health is to have an accurate assessment of it at the individual level. An accurate assessment is difficult to attain because illness is an inevitably broad phenomenon, with a wide array of potential sources, both internal and external, affecting an ill person’s well-being. The differentiating factor between health and disease is a diagnosis, the process by which disease is identified. While the experience of an individual is the fundamental basis of subjective well-being, the circumstances surrounding his or her experience can affect this subjective state.
These definitions highlight the importance of addressing the lack of a universal approach to the definition of healthy and unhealthy. Although there is some debate over what constitutes a healthy or unhealthy body, there is a strong consensus that a healthy body is in opposition to an unhealthy body. The absence of an objective judgment as regards this definition of healthy and unhealthy provides ample room for individuals to disagree as to the source of their bodies’ deficiencies, shortcomings, or risk factors. There are thus no set and clear boundary as to what constitutes a healthy body and what constitutes a sick one.