A Brief Look at the Relationship Between Illness and Health
Health, as defined by the World Health Organization, is ‘a state of full physical, emotional and social well being and not the absence of illness and infirmity.’ A wide variety of other definitions have also been used over the years. For some people it means being content with one’s health, happy with one’s body, and capable of handling one’s life comfortably. For others, however, health means much different – it involves being healthy and happy, and living a long and productive life. No matter what definition you choose, health is important. With proper health, you can enjoy your life to its fullest!
One of the many social determinants of good health is the general wellbeing of an individual. This general wellbeing is a sum of his parts: his physical health, mind/body health, and social well being. All three aspects are interrelated and depend on each other in order for an individual to be healthy and remain so; together they form the whole wellness.
One way to measure the general well-being of an individual is to look at his physiological health. By looking at his bodily condition, you can tell if he is healthy or sick. Some people are born with physical defects that may lead to poor health, or they may be affected by environmental factors that may stunt their growth and development. A good gauge for determining the overall health of an individual is to take a look at his medical history.
Another important aspect of good health is his mental health. Mental health is often defined by the WHO as the “proximal cause of death for all ages.” It should be noted that this definition is controversial, as it has no scientific basis. Instead, health professionals use a more holistic definition – that a person who dies of any disease has had a good chance of living a full life, even though the disease may have prevented him from doing things that might have otherwise prevented his existence. The definition is thus considered a cultural rather than a scientific one.
In order to understand and assess the risk factors for a particular disease, a health system first has to be devised. The risk factors are then categorized into two groups: the controllable factors and the uncontrollable factors. The controllable factors include age, sex, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and other physiological factors. These factors are known to directly cause death, such as is the case with heart disease. On the other hand, the uncontrollable factors include diseases that are beyond the victim’s control, such as cancer, AIDS, and other potentially fatal illnesses. This category also includes the environment.
Environmental factors are what affect an individual most directly through his lifestyle and his genetics. These factors include the quality of his home, the neighborhood where he grows up, the educational level and other resources that he has access to, the social support system that he has, the physical environment, and so on. When these three aspects of his life are in bad shape, his overall health declines and he may become more susceptible to illness. Illness therefore is seen as a form of defect that is brought about by either the controllable or the uncontrollable factors mentioned above.