Health, as defined by the World Health Organization, is ‘a condition of full physical, mental and emotional well-being’. It has also been described as “the process through which all of your physical and mental health is developed and maintained”. Various definitions have also been applied to this state. For the purposes of this article, a definition that will be considered as both definitive and functional will be used.
According to this definition, good health is not just absence of serious disease or disability. Good health can also be the result of having a good body weight, being physically active, having reasonable stress levels, having good nutrition and having a generally healthy lifestyle. There are other definitions that use a slightly different definition in order to define good health. Some consider it to be the absence or less presence of certain diseases or disability, while some refer to it as the absence or reduction of the risks of developing certain kinds of diseases.
However, this definition is largely based on perception. What people perceive as healthy and unhealthy varies from culture to culture and even to country. The definition of healthy can include some elements of a healthy lifestyle but does not include total abstaining from some things like smoking, drinking alcohol and sugary foods. And when it comes to being infirm, what some people perceive to be healthy and normal can actually be unhealthy and normal for other people. A good example is the way some people perceive someone who is fat as being healthy and in perfect health.
One common approach to health management is through maintaining a healthy body weight. According to this definition, healthy body weight is a measurement of height and weight that allows for the calculation of body mass index (BMI) from height and age. This way, individuals can be advised on how to maintain a healthy BMI and can thus lose or maintain their ideal weights. However, some people do perceive obesity as a disease that must be managed. Hence, a different definition of healthy has been developed by experts.
One school of thought suggests that a healthy definition of health means an absence of illness, disease, disability, or death. Hence, any absence of any such thing may be taken as a measurement of health. It also includes absence from pain, absence from undernourishment and any kind of constraint or immobility. In this way, the absence can be seen as a synonym with wellness.
On the other hand, the other school of thought maintains that health is not the absence but something that continuously evolve in response to environmental factors and it therefore includes the elements of disease that can be avoided by healthy eating, regular exercise and avoiding exposure to environmental diseases. A third definition suggests that health is something that we acquire by choice and that may deteriorate with exposure to environmental stresses. It therefore includes the elements of disability and impairment. The difference between these two definitions is often discussed and sometimes even debated. It is also used to indicate the types of diseases that exist.