Health is a condition where disease and infirmity are completely absent. Various definitions have been employed over the years for different purposes. Modern approaches to health include the concept of health as a sum of separate and independent factors. In fact, health is about being able to cope with whatever challenges life may throw at us.
When considering health, we must also take into consideration the complete set of factors that contribute to our overall health and well being: good physical environment, proper nutrition, good family support, social support and so on. The combination of these factors is referred to as a “smooth functioning” syndrome. The good health we all seek comes from the interplay of all these factors.
It has long been argued by health scientists that social determinants account for most of the differences in health status. These determinants relate to the persons’ place in society, the type of education received, their occupation, their past and present living conditions and so on. Thus the causes of poor health are usually situated in the person’s place in the society, and some of these causes are beyond their control. However, other determinants such as the type of clothing one wears, their general attitude towards health and also their social and cultural background have major effects.
Although the determinants mentioned above account for much of the difference in health status, there are still some important exceptions. For example, although the wealthier classes seem to be healthier than the poorer classes, the wealthy are also more prone to diseases like heart disease and obesity. This difference has also been attributed to differences in socioeconomic status.
Another factor that accounts for much of the discrepancies between developed countries and less healthy countries is the extent of stress an individual experiences. In a United States for instance, there is no clear relation between socioeconomic status and the occurrence of stress. However, this does not mean that people with higher socioeconomic status are less susceptible to stress. In fact, in several studies it was found that people in better economic circumstances were more likely to exhibit positive attitudes towards health, to be physically active, to accept that smoking and alcohol use can lead to poor health and to eat a healthy diet.
Therefore, it appears that the determinants by which people experience different health problems are not the ones that account for the differences in health. Rather, there are social, psychological and environmental factors that lead them to develop particular health problems. Thus, the real problem lies in trying to reduce the effect of these external factors through personal health interventions. It is suggested that people should try to live healthy lifestyles and adopt healthy behaviors and try to cope with stress as best they can. They should try to reduce the negative influence of advertising as well as popular culture on their thinking and behavior and integrate exercise into their daily routine.