What Do You Think of When You Think of Health?


The term health is a complex concept that has been viewed in different ways by individuals and professionals. For example, a person with Down syndrome who swims competitively, works part-time and has supportive relationships may be considered healthy by most people.

The lay perspective on health tends toward wholeness and pragmatism. This means that health is a holistic phenomenon and takes the entire life situation into account.


Physical health is a dimension of total well-being that involves the normal functioning of the body. It includes everything from the absence of disease to a person’s level of fitness. It can be improved by following a healthful lifestyle, adequate rest and exercise, a balanced diet and medical treatment when needed.

Taking care of your physical health can help you to feel more energized and resilient to illness. However, it’s important to remember that your physical health is only one dimension of overall well-being. Focusing solely on the physical health aspect of wellness would be unrealistic for most people. That’s why it’s important to incorporate all aspects of wellness into your life to achieve optimal health. You can find comprehensive collections of medical, nursing and allied health eBooks in our R2 Digital Library.


A person’s mental health influences his or her ability to learn, develop healthy relationships, work, play and contribute to society. Some people develop a mental illness, but many recover. Research shows that a variety of risk and protective factors influence mental health, from the specific events and conditions that occur in an individual’s life to larger structural threats like poverty, war, disease outbreaks, environmental degradation, climate change and economic crisis.

A mental illness can make it harder to keep a job, go to school, maintain good hygiene and get enough sleep. But with early and consistent treatment—usually a combination of therapy and medication—most people can manage their symptoms and lead productive, fulfilling lives. The stigma and sense of hopelessness surrounding mental illnesses must be eliminated.


When people think of health, they might picture a physical ailment such as a cough or back pain, or mental health issues like anxiety or depression. But health has other aspects that are less visible and just as important to your well-being. One of those is social health.

Research shows that having strong relationships can boost your mental and physical health. Mutual social support attenuates the effects of stress, reduces the incidence of disease and encourages personal growth. It also contributes to the concept of social capital, the extent to which individuals feel a sense of trust and reciprocity in a community.

But it’s important not to confuse social health with the broader concept of social determinants of health, which refers to non-medical factors that affect well-being, including economic policies and systems. Studies suggest that addressing these factors can be as crucial to health as medicine.


Spiritual health includes core principles and beliefs that guide one’s life. It is often based in religion but can also include music, art or a connection to nature.

Qualitative research on spiritual health finds that it is characterized by positive feelings, balance and peace, self-worth, rationality and thinking, calmness, sense of responsibility for self, satisfaction, vitality and empowerment and hope. It also involves human connection with others and with the universe based on moral virtues such as kindness, benevolence, forgiveness, empathy and generosity.

It’s important to practice regularly and find support. Consider joining a religious or spiritual group, practicing mindfulness or simply spending time in nature. Spirituality can be a source of comfort, hope and healing during difficult times. It can even help with reducing stress reactivity and improving quality of life.


When most people think of health, they immediately picture physical well-being. However, emotions are also an important component of health. Emotional health involves a person’s ability to regulate their positive and negative feelings.

Imagine a man or woman of any age whose romantic relationship just ended, who lost their job and has to relocate across the country, or who is struggling financially. Whether they realize it or not, these situations can impact their emotional health.

It’s important to note that a person’s emotional health does not necessarily imply their mental health, and it’s possible to have healthy mental health without having optimal emotional health. Still, having healthy emotional wellness can help individuals manage their mental health conditions and bounce back from life’s challenges. This will lead to a more fulfilling and productive life.