What Is Health and How Can It Affect You?


For centuries, health has been considered a combination of a person’s body and soul. Hippocrates defined health as the balance between the unity of spirit and body and emphasized that disease has a natural origin.

Modern science has made significant progress in understanding diseases and their mechanisms. Consequently, new definitions for health are needed.


Physical health is one dimension of total well-being and includes the body’s ability to function normally. This includes exercise and healthy eating to fuel the body and keep it strong. It also includes being aware of, and seeking medical care for illness, injury or chronic health conditions like asthma.

Regular physical activity (both moderate and vigorous intensity) is good for overall health and can help prevent and manage noncommunicable diseases such as heart disease and diabetes, maintain a healthy weight, lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of some cancers. It can also improve mental health and quality of life. The best way to be physically healthy is to be active throughout the day and eat a balanced diet that includes lots of vegetables and fruit.


Mental health is the foundation for emotions, thinking, communication, learning and resilience. It’s also key to relationships, personal and emotional well-being and contributing to community and society.

Research shows that people with good mental health are more productive, have better social connections and are generally happier. They are more likely to avoid drugs and alcohol and to have a primary care doctor who supports their mental health.

Many different factors can affect your mental health, including genes, environment and lifestyle. Stressful jobs or home life can make some people more susceptible to developing a mental illness, as can traumatic events or biological processes and circuits in the brain. Treatment for mental health conditions usually involves psychotherapy (talk therapy), medication and self-care strategies like exercise, healthy eating and sleep.


A growing body of research demonstrates that social conditions foster cumulative advantage or disadvantage for health in a variety of ways over the life course. This has led some scholars to argue that social health should be considered a health outcome in its own right, rather than simply a predictor or moderator of other health outcomes.

Some policies and interventions address aspects of healthy social relationships, including supporting family and community well-being, reducing stress for caregivers and promoting positive relationships for children and the elderly. Others seek to identify the underlying psychosocial mechanisms that link social health with physical and mental health, such as interpersonal support, personal control, symbolic meanings and norms.

Other policies aim to reduce the risk of unhealthy social ties through initiatives such as promoting healthy eating and living. These strategies should be integrated into a broader approach that addresses all determinants of social health.


Spiritual health is related to the way people seek ultimate meaning and connection. It also refers to their beliefs, morality and values. Spirituality includes organized religion but goes beyond that to include connections to nature, family, community and others.

During difficult times, such as a chronic illness or a loss of a loved one, many people find comfort in their spirituality. It is important to maintain a healthy diet and exercise, but it’s equally important to have a practice that helps you reconnect with yourself.

Meditation, yoga, tai chi and qi gong are all excellent examples of spiritual practices. So is spending time in nature, such as hiking or walking near water. The benefits of both are numerous and can reduce stress.


Having healthy emotional reactions to life events and relationships can also impact your mental health. When you’re able to regulate emotions like stress, anger, sadness or happiness, it can help you work productively and bounce back from challenges.

Emotionally healthy people know that every feeling has value, even those negative feelings that aren’t good for you. They allow themselves to have those negative emotions and then learn from them, but they don’t let those feelings dictate their behavior or decisions.

During times of high stress or emotional distress, it’s important to have healthy eating habits so that you don’t turn to comfort foods that can be unhealthy. Emotional health can also include the ability to express emotions and feel supported by others. Having strong emotional support can reduce your risk of depression and anxiety.