What Is Health and How Does It Affect Us?

Health can be influenced by many factors. Some are within a person’s control, such as avoiding activities that can cause an allergic reaction.

The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” That is an exciting definition that includes lifestyle.


Physical health refers to your body, including everything from the absence of illness to how well your body functions and how fit you are. It can also include how you manage health conditions and injuries.

Your level of physical health is impacted by many factors, such as your genes, environment, and lifestyle choices. Maintaining healthy habits like getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, and participating in regular exercise can help support your physical health. In addition, seeking medical treatment when needed is important for managing and maintaining your health. Physical health can be seen as a continuum, with some people being at an optimal level of wellness with minimal health issues and excellent fitness levels while others have serious health concerns that limit their ability to perform daily activities.


Mental health encompasses emotional and psychological well-being and influences how we think, feel and behave. It is influenced by many factors, including genetics and life experiences. Mental health is often seen as a key factor in the ability to cope with stress and challenges, and is associated with a person’s sense of enjoyment of life and their capacity to work productively and fruitfully.

Mental disorders are common around the world and a major contributor to disability, morbidity and premature death. They can cause serious impairment, which is defined as a significant and prolonged reduction in functioning that interferes with the ability to carry out ordinary daily activities. People experiencing symptoms of a mental illness are encouraged to seek help from a healthcare provider. Getting an accurate diagnosis is the first step toward treatment, which can include psychotherapy and medication.


A key aspect of health is the capacity for meaningful human connection. This is best achieved through emotional support and close relationships, including romantic partnerships, family ties, friendships, and community involvement.

Psychologists, sociologists, and epidemiologists have contributed a great deal to our understanding of the link between social ties and health. They have shown, for instance, that supportive interactions with others benefit immune, endocrine, and cardiovascular systems, while reducing allostatic load—the wear and tear that results from overworked physiological systems engaged in stress responses (Uchino 2004).

Early research focused on the quantity of social ties; however, it has been increasingly recognized that quality is just as important as quantity. Moreover, recent studies show that the effects of social ties on health may be amplified across a person’s network.


Spiritual health refers to a sense of connection with something larger than oneself, which may take the form of religion or an internal moral compass. It can also include a deep appreciation for the natural world and a belief that we are all interconnected.

People who feel their spiritual health is strong often have a better work/life balance and find meaning in their daily tasks. They are more likely to feel connected to the community and exhibit kindness, compassion and altruism.

According to McKinsey Health Institute, a comprehensive assessment of spirituality can include tools like lifemaps, where patients depict their spiritual journey; genograms, which chart the role of spirituality in several generations; and eco-maps, where people explore their current relationships with nature. These assessments can help therapists understand how spirituality and religiosity intersect with an individual’s mental health challenges.


Emotional health is a positive state of psychological functioning that allows you to thrive through the highs and lows of life. It incorporates everything from your mood to the way you handle conflict. It involves a healthy work-life balance and avoiding toxic relationships.

It also focuses on the ability to communicate with others in a way that is open and honest. People who prioritize emotional health often have supportive relationships and find comfort in their own skin. They are able to identify and manage negative emotions like sadness, stress or anger. They are flexible in times of adversity and can adjust their lifestyle to overcome obstacles. They have a good sense of self-worth and can keep problems in perspective. They are resilient and know when to seek help.