The word “health” refers to a state of complete emotional and physical well-being. Healthcare exists to help people maintain this optimal state of health.
In 2015, the population of the United States (U.S.) spent an estimated $3.2 trillion on healthcare costs.
However, despite this expenditure, a study by the U.S. National Research Council, published in 2013, showed that Americans die at a younger age and experience more illness and injury than people in other developed countries.
Good health is central to handling stress and living a long and active life.
Fast facts on health
Here are some key points about health. More detail is in the main article.
Health can be defined as physical, mental, and social wellbeing, and as a resource for living a full life.
It refers not only to the absence of disease, but the ability to recover and bounce back from illness and other problems.
Factors for good health include genetics, the environment, relationships, and education.
A healthful diet, exercise, screening for diseases, and coping strategies can all enhance a person’s health.
What is health?
Health is not just absence of disease but a state of overall wellbeing.
In 1948, the World Health Organization (WHO) defined health with a phrase that is still used today.
“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” WHO, 1948.
In 1986, the WHO further clarified that health is:
“A resource for everyday life, not the objective of living. Health is a positive concept emphasizing social and personal resources, as well as physical capacities.”
This means that health is a resource to support an individual’s function in wider society. A healthful lifestyle provides the means to lead a full life.
More recently, researchers have defined health as the ability of a body to adapt to new threats and infirmities. They base this on the idea that modern science has dramatically increased human awareness of diseases and how they work in the last few decades.
Mental and physical health are the two most commonly discussed types of health. We also talk about “spiritual health,” “emotional health,” and “financial health,” among others. These have also been linked to lower stress levels and mental and physical wellbeing.
In a person who experiences physical health, bodily functions are working at peak performance, due not only to a lack of disease, but also to regular exercise, balanced nutrition, and adequate rest. We receive treatment, when necessary, to maintain the balance.
Physical wellbeing involves pursuing a healthful lifestyle to decrease the risk of disease. Maintaining physical fitness, for example, can protect and develop the endurance of a person’s breathing and heart function, muscular strength, flexibility, and body composition.
Physical health and well-being also help reduce the risk of an injury or health issue. Examples include minimizing hazards in the workplace, practicing safe sex, practicing good hygiene, or avoiding the use of tobacco, alcohol, or illegal drugs.
Mental health refers to a person’s emotional, social, and psychological wellbeing. Mental health is as important as physical health to a full, active lifestyle.
It is harder to define mental health than physical health, because, in many cases, diagnosis depends on the individual’s perception of their experience. With improvements in testing, however, some signs of some types of mental illness are now becoming “visible” in CT scans and genetic testing.
Mental health is not only the absence of depression, anxiety, or another disorder.
It also depends on the ability to:
bounce back after difficult experiences
adapt to adversity
feel safe and secure
achieve your potential