The Concept of Wellness
Health, as defined by the World Health Organization, is an “orderly condition of the body’s physical condition that includes capacity, composition, and functioning of all organs, tissues, organs and systems.” Different definitions have been applied for various purposes over the years. For the purposes of this article we will consider three broad perspectives on health that are the foundation of a healthy life.
The first perspective on health is defined healthful lifestyle. A healthy lifestyle includes habits such as not smoking, eating a balanced diet, exercising, and avoiding or limiting the intake of certain foods. Other things that may be considered part of a healthy lifestyle include adequate sleep, drinking water regularly, and getting regular exercise. The other perspective on health is the definition given by the National Cancer Society that “cancer is a disease of the body that results from the invasion and metastasis of cells from other parts of the body, rather than from the cancerous site.” This second perspective on healthful lifestyle focuses on prevention rather than treatment.
The next perspective on health is “the absence of disease.” Disease is a term that has been broadly defined. To some extent the definition of disease has become divorced from its scientific meaning and is instead defined according to a social context. According to the socially acceptable view, disease means any instance of abnormal physical condition that is perceived to endanger one’s health, though illness in general does not threaten one’s health in that way. Some examples of cases considered illness in a social environment are death from auto accidents, work-related illnesses, and certain forms of depression.
The third perspective on health is described by Joseph S. Los Angeles, M.D., as “the balance between the quantity of good and bad in the lifestyle.” It is the interdependence between persons that forms the basis of the concept of good health. A good diet, regular exercise, and a healthy lifestyle are measures that can be taken toward health. Adequate sleep and relaxation, and making adequate use of the preventative health resources like seat cushions, seat belts, and smoke detectors can help to maintain optimal health. In this third perspective on health, illness is seen to be a result of the excess of bad habits or the absence of good habits.
In this fourth perspective on health, sickness is defined as any instance when the capacity for productive life is impaired or disrupted because of disease, physical debilitation, or environmental cause. Illness is therefore seen as a decline in the ability to perform the activities of life. Illness is therefore a form of restriction of the life of a person. The various definitions of sickness also include conditions like psychological illnesses, which are characterized by maladaptive self-defeating behavior. The loss or elimination of an individual’s ability to perform the activities of life or the exposure to a physical or chemical substance that affects the ability to engage in life, such as cigarette smoking, contributes to the definition of illness.
The concept of wellness is related to well being but it is not necessarily tied to physical health. Wellness is related to emotional health, mental health, and quality of life. It is the combination of the three that yields the ultimate definition of health. The definition of wellness embraces both prevention and cure of physical illness, but also includes aspects of self-care, healthy relationship building, and healthy financial security.